Steroids in Rugby

Gerbrandt_Grobler_WP_Chris_Ricco_BackpagePix_620_395_s_c1_top_topSteroid use is rife in rugby; most worrying of all is its use among young players. The UK Anti-Doping head, Nicole Sapstead has expressed particular concern over this. This was in reaction to three low league players being banned from the game for violating anti-doping rules.

One of the said players was Andrew Quarry. Andrew has been banned for 12 years from the game for providing anabolic steroids. The other two players – Brandon Walker and Connor Stapley – incurred four and two years bans respectively.

This is not a new trend in the sport, nor is rugby unique in this problem. But the fact remains that it continues to be a growing problem in the sport and especially among the younger players.

It is not just the damaging impact to the bodies of the users that take steroids, but it fundamentally undermines the sportsmanship of the game as well as a deliberate cheating of the system of rules that keeps rugby fair. It turns rugby from a game of skill into a game of drug-taking.

In a breaking BBC Radio 5 live feature it came to light that steroid use is “widespread” in the game. The reason cited was that players are taking the steroids for “body image” reasons, to fit expectations of what strong men should look like.

Steroid use is complex as it is fuelled by myths, misinformation, sociocultural pressures as well as players desperate to win under increasing pressure to win.

For the sake of clarity, when news and media speak about steroid use in a sport like rugby or industry it is actually incorrectly used. Steroids are only one of many classes of banned substances which are used in sports to gain unfair advantages – better called “performance enhancers”. Not all performance enhancers are steroids whereas all steroids are performance enhancers.