The Keep Rugby Clean message will be driven home on Saturday at the IRB Junior World Championship 2011 in Italy when players, officials, tournament staff and administrators wear branded t-shirts to show their support for the International Rugby Board’s campaign.
The final round of pool matches in Rovigo, Padova and Treviso doubles as “Keep Rugby Clean Day” at the Junior World Championship, an initiative that was implemented at IRB Age Grade tournaments to raise awareness of drugs and their impact.
Before arriving in Italy for the prestigious Under 20 tournament, players from the 12 participating teams all had to complete the IRB’s Real Winner Education Programme, an online practical education resource which can be found at www.keeprugbyclean.com.
Each team then had a one to one session in Italy with either IRB Anti-Doping Manager Tim Ricketts or Anti-Doping Co-ordinator Ilaria Baudo, which covered the main areas of the dangers of supplements, social drugs, technology and the testing process.
With the sessions taking place in an informal setting and often without team management present, they allowed the players to ask questions without feeling embarrassed and get feedback on any areas of Anti-Doping education they weren’t 100 percent sure about.
“The players asked some really good questions and we had some good discussions. The reaction to the sessions has been very positive, they seemed to really learn a lot with this interactive format and also to enjoy it at the same time which is important,” explained Baudo.
“We talked about the potential dangers of using supplements, the dangers of social drugs, both from an anti-doping and health point of view, the dangers of technology, that by representing their country they are role models to young players and the responsibility that brings.”
The players then completed the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) quiz and received the Keep Rugby Clean t-shirt they will all wear to warm-up on Saturday, and their competitive streak came through, eager to know who were the best team and individuals.
The feedback received from players and team doctors alike has been positive with Scotland team doctor Dave Pugh, the only member of their management team to sit in on the session with Baudo, praising the interactive format.
“It was a very relaxed sessions, Ilaria let the boys talk and I felt that with the management not there they weren’t afraid to ask questions which with management there they might have thought were pretty stupid, even though they weren’t,” explained Dr Pugh.
Interactive approach works
“It was really well run, they were asking questions and getting feedback and it was going back and forth, not just them being talked at. Young men don’t buy into that, they much prefer to be involved and having their questions answered.
“It was very informative and it works because if they’ve just been training and you talk at them they just switch off, but this interactive style works. They seemed to enjoy it, they went on to do the questionnaire and there was a lot of laughter, they were quite keen to do well on it and it was a positive session, they will all get something out of it.”
A sentiment echoed by England flanker Matt Everard and Italy captain Piermaria Leso.
“It was really helpful in understanding all aspects of anti-doping within rugby,” said Everard.
“As players we want to keep the sport clean and maintain a level playing field, drugs have no place within rugby and the outreach programme helped to clear up any queries that we had in our minds.
Interesting and enjoyable
“It was both informative and interesting, and it was all for our benefit. Programmes like that are vital to young individuals like myself who aspire to have long careers in the Game."
Leso added: “The IRB educational programme is very interesting and enjoyable. It is not a classic, old-school lesson on doping related issues but gives a 360° overview on the international fight to sport drugs.
“Thanks to the interactive quiz, the IRB programme keeps attention high between young players. In my opinion, the most formative aspect for the U20 players is the understanding the dangers of supplements, and what we must do to keep our sport clean.”
The Keep Rugby Clean campaign has the support of a number of key international players, including IRB Anti-Doping Ambassadors Felipe Contepomi of Argentina, France's Vincent Clerc, James Hook of Wales, Women’s Rugby World Cup winner Carla Hohepa of New Zealand and South Africa's former IRB Player of the Year Bryan Habana.
For more information on the campaign, visit www.keeprugbyclean.com.