Thursday will not only see the climax of pool stages at the IRB Junior World Championship 2013 in France, it has also been designated Keep Rugby Clean Day with all players, management and tournament staff wearing branded t-shirts to support the campaign.
The IRB’s Keep Rugby Clean campaign has the backing of eight ambassadors, including British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton, Argentina captain Felipe Contepomi, Australian flanker David Pocock and South African Sevens star Cecil Afrika.
Keep Rugby Clean Day at JWC 2013 coincides with the official launch of a comprehensive E-learning programme that will be rolled out on www.keeprugbyclean.com. The multi-language site is an extensive learning tool that allows players, coaches, management and parents to learn about the dangers and consequences of doping.
The IRB Junior World Championship plays a key role in preparing the future stars of the Game for the rigours of Test Rugby and Anti-Doping education is an essential element in that process. The IRB operates a zero-tolerance policy to drug cheats in sport, in partnership with the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA).
Three of the Keep Rugby Clean Ambassadors have themselves played on the IRB Junior World Championship stage with Australia’s David Pocock, Sam Warburton of Wales and South Africa’s Cecil Afrika all playing in the inaugural tournament in 2008.
Afrika, the IRB Sevens Player of the Year in 2011, was in attendance on Keep Rugby Clean Day during JWC 2012 in South Africa to show his support for the campaign and is honoured to be one of the IRB’s eight ambassadors in this campaign.
“The Keep Rugby Clean campaign is an easy one for me to support as I live my life and play my rugby by that motto,” explained Afrika. “I accepted the role as an ambassador to the campaign because I believe that my lifestyle is living proof of that and that it hopefully can motivate others to do the same.
“I would recommend the IRB’s efforts to educate players on the importance of anti-doping and would urge the players to take notice of and attend these workshops.
Dedication and honesty
“The fact that one did not know will never be an excuse when it comes to doping. As a potential or current professional rugby player, you should make sure what the dangers and pitfalls are when it comes to the use of substances and supplements. My advice would be to rather not take something if you are not sure about the legality of it.”
Warburton captained Wales to fourth place at JWC 2008 and is currently leading the British & Irish Lions on their tour of Australia, having been announced as an IRB Keep Rugby Clean Ambassador during JWC 2012.
“It’s something I feel very strongly about,” admitted the Welsh flanker. “Top players have got to where they are because they have been dedicated and honest and they haven’t felt the need to cheat and it’s that much more satisfying when you do make it to the top without that. Rugby has got such a clean record now we have really got to work hard to keep on top of that and keep it going.
“It’s so important [players understand the messaging], if you fail a drugs test it has implications which players probably do not appreciate. You are looking at two year bans for the sake of not checking labels, so you should only take stuff from official advisers.
“It’s so important you do that and it’s so much more satisfying when you do make it and you have been honest and done it the hard way. Playing international rugby at Under 20 level it’s your first taste of drug testing really but it’s something that players do well into their 30s and it’s a routine you have to get used to, it’s part and parcel of professional rugby but it’s the best thing to do to make sure we keep the sport clean.
“All the players in the British & Irish Lions are only taking honest supplements, and hard work, dedication and good training programmes will get you there, and the right attitude, so there’s no need to take any illegal substances at all.”
Pocock, the most capped JWC graduate with 46 Tests for Australia, added: “Keeping rugby clean is important for the health of athletes and to ensure it is a level playing field for all players.
“Having come through the Under 20’s tournament, I think education is the key and it is every rugby players responsibility to help keep doping out of rugby.”
Contepomi, who is currently captaining Argentina in their series with England, is not just a Keep Rugby Clean Ambassador, he is also a member of IRB Anti-Doping Advisory Committee and the WADA Athletes Committee and is very passionate about the fight to keep rugby a clean sport.
Rugby: A sport for everyone
“It’s more than just being the ambassador, it’s important that everybody tries to keep rugby clean. I have already been doing this for a long time and I think it’s crucial for the Game. When you are a competitor you want to make sure you are competing against people that are clean and celebrate all the skills and everything in the Game in a good way.
“It’s very important and I’m delighted I have been involved for a few years with Keep Rugby Clean.
“Education for me is the crucial part of keeping rugby clean and keeping every sport clean because nowadays there are lots of interests around sports, not just from the players, but also from the entourage.
“When you are young you think ‘how am I going to get bigger?’ or this or that but there are different ways to get bigger and stronger, and the way you should do it is by training hard and properly and not taking a shortcut or cheating.
“It’s important that the young players understand that all is reachable, nothing is impossible, and that if you are not that big or as huge as you think you should be you probably have other skills which you need to exploit in the game.
“Rugby is not just about big people but the beauty of rugby is you have a place for everyone: the short ones, the tall ones, the quick ones, the slow ones, the fat ones, the slim ones. I think that for young players it’s important for them to get educated and understand that you don’t have to take shortcuts or cheat to be a top performer.
“The E-learning programme, it’s not only a great thing but I think for all the youngsters entering international competitions it should be compulsory, and I think it’s for the different unions and federations to promote learning because it’s something very quick and very concise and precise about the shortcuts you don’t have to take. I’m sure it will do a lot of good for young people.”
As part of the IRB’s outreach Anti-Doping education programme all players at #JWC2013 have benefitted from a team-based education session with experienced staff explaining the dangers of doping.
True values of sport
IRB Anti-Doping Manager for Testing and Education, Ilaria Baudo, said: “The feedback from players and coaches during this year's IRB Junior World Championship has been really positive.
“It’s encouraging to hear these young players ask questions about anti-doping during the outreach sessions, about how they can ensure a clean and healthy future in the sport they love.
“Players need to understand from an early age the dangers and consequences of doping, the pitfalls concerning nutritional supplement use and how to maintain a healthy and clean approach to sports nutrition and Keep Rugby Clean Day helps promote those values.”
The focus on education though is aimed not just at the 336 players involved in the Junior World Championship, but also at team management, coaches and medics.
Ireland Under 20 coach Mike Ruddock, whose sons Ciarán and Rhys have both played on the Junior World Championship stage, took part in the outreach session with his players in Vannes and was impressed by what he saw.
“It is absolutely paramount to have an education programme to support the whole anti-doping programme and to work with the players' awareness of what they should and shouldn't do and I think it is a first class support system from the IRB and associated bodies and we are very pleased to take part in that.”
A sentiment echoed by Wales Under 20 manager Mark Taylor: “Keep Rugby Clean Day plays a huge part in promoting the true values of rugby and sport in general where athletes perform to the best of their ability and don’t resort to cheating.
“The education programme also helps highlight to players the negative effect that drugs will have on them physically and mentally and gives them guidelines on how to run their professional lives within sport.”
For more information, visit www.keeprugbyclean.com.