NZ sport is clean, but more can be done

By James Perry

Drugfree Sport NZ says while NZ is relatively clean in terms of sports doping, they are working to make young athletes aware of the dangers. It follows the four year ban of a former high school rugby player who admitted to doping while at school in 2014.

As the player was a Year 12 student, and a minor at the time of offending, he cannot be publicly identified.

A judicial committee heard the case, in which the player was found to have made several purchases of, and used, Clenbuterol in 2014.

Despite the latest findings, Paterson says New Zealand has a history of "competing hard and competing fairly. But you can't rest on our laurels, you've got to work hard to keep the culture right, keep it clean."

Drugfree Sport NZ has established two programs aimed at school aged athletes, and are looking to do more. One was specifically targeted at the Top 4 1st XV finals tournament in 2017, and will happen again this year. It looked at providing education to the young players around what substances were allowed, and the testing processes. CEO Nick Paterson says "some of these guys are going on to greater honours and we've got to set them up right for whatever future they do."

The second program Drugfree Sport NZ run is called 'Good Clean Sport', and is aimed again at the secondary school aged. Paterson describes the program as "talking to them about good values, how to make good decisions and set them up for some good places in life, both in sport and elsewhere."

The two programs have been received well, Paterson estimates around 4000 youth through 80 schools have been reached already, "we can always do more", and expects those numbers to increase this year. 

The rugby judicial committee concluded the high school player knew that by taking Clenbuterol it would strengthen his muscular power and make him a stronger player as he pursued a desire to play 1st XV rugby. And for those reasons concluded a reduction in suspension could not be allowed. Paterson there isn't "much scope to do anything different," as the rules are set by the World Anti-Doping code, but admits the suspension "remains quite a significant ban for an individual."

The unnamed player's four year ban from all sport has been backdated to August 2017.