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Doping not confined to the “usual” suspects

Doping’s insidious grip on sport is normally associated with just a few sport codes.

But the current World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) annual report reveals that there have been Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) in sports as diverse as figure skating, billiards, petanque (a variety of boule, which itself is a variety of bowls), bowls itself, lifesaving, tug-of-war and wushu (a Chinese martial art).

Then there’s cheer (or cheerleading), fly sport fishing, darts, savate (a French type of boxing) and sepaktakraw (an Asian variety of volleyball in which kicking is used).  They and the many sports more commonly associated with doping all registered ADRVs in 2014, according to the recently-released WADA report for that year.

But what about South African sports that are not normally associated with doping?

Surfing is one of them and the sport will be part of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, where surfers will be subjected to testing like all other Olympians.  The sport has grown through multi-million dollar surfing competitions that are held on all continents with many nationalities represented.

Currently South Africans surfers, both males and females, enjoy high positions on the international ranking tables.  Robin de Kock, general manager of Surfing South Africa, said: “We take doping in sport very seriously. Surfing SA complies with the SASCOC anti-doping protocols and over the years we have worked closely with the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) as regards doping tests at our national and international events.”

De Kock added: “We certainly will work with SAIDS as regards testing at our events and in fact plan to ask SAIDS whether we could have some tests done at our national championships.”

SAIDS chief executive Khalid Galant said the organisation welcomed such approaches: “The goodwill of governing bodies makes our lives much easier and helps ensure that their sports are kept clean.”

He said that there had not been significant doping problems with “minority” sports in South Africa because the financial rewards in these sports were not substantial. There tends to be a strong correlation between financial rewards and the potential for doping.

For the general public, the biggest surprises were ADRVs in sports where power or endurance were not factors. “Internationally there have been ADRVs in sports such a billiards, archery and golf, where calmness and a steady hand is required. Typically that would be achieved by using beta blockers, which are prohibited,” said Galant.

Dirk Cloete, operations manager for the Southern Africa PGA Tour, said: “We had three anti-doping rule violations on the Sunshine Tour since 2012 which we have dealt with. None of them were specifically performance enhancing violations – two were for recreational drug use and one was for accidental use of flu medication which contained a banned substance.”

“There are hardly any substances that can enhance a golfer’s performance and very little abuse takes place in this sport. But as the golfers, especially the professionals, are athletes and golf is now an Olympic sport it is necessary to comply with the WADA code.

“The Sunshine Tour performs regular testing with the help of SAIDS at its professional golf tournaments. We performed 105 tests since inception of our anti-doping programme in 2010.”

Galant said his organisation generally enjoyed “excellent” relationships with the governing bodies and looked forward to expanding its service.

Asked about testing jukskei participants, Galant laughed: “We’d happily test if we were asked to. It is a serious sport and there is some prestige involved in a sport where drug testing occurs, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have a drug problem.”