David Howman lauds decision to drug test schoolboy rugby players

Former Director General of the World Anti-Doping Agency, David Howman has welcomed the move to test New Zealand's leading Secondary School Rugby players. 

Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ) will randomly test athletes at September's Top Four National First XV finals tournament in Palmerston North.

DFSNZ regularly tests young athletes, but this will be the first time the agency has tested athletes representing their schools.  

"It's a very important initiative" said Howman.

"A lot of the problems in doping occur in the stages where young athletes are trying to break through into the elite nature and they're tempted to do that by others who should know better but a lot of doping goes on at that level so I'm really pleased at the initiative from DFSNZ and the willingness I think of the school principals to take this on."

International evidence suggests doping is an area of concern for Secondary School Rugby.

In 2015, the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) reported that over the 10 years up to 2014, nearly half of all doping convictions against rugby players came from the under-19 level and the country's annual Craven Week schoolboys rugby tournament.

It reported 13 convictions of Craven Week players during that time, and 10 of those had been in the past five years.

The vast majority of positive tests of rugby players across all levels were for anabolic steroids.

Howman said more education was required at school level, and that the step taken by DFSNZ was a vital educational tool and deterrence. 

"If you look worldwide at the problem that's occurred in rugby, particularly in South Africa but also in other parts of the world, it's those who're seeking contracts or positions in academies they're the ones who're tempted to break the rules.

"Once you get into the professional team or academy that seems to be dissipating because of the influence of others." 

It's understood parental consent will not be required for athletes to be tested. The tournament falls under the jurisdiction of New Zealand Rugby, which conforms to DFSNZ rules.