By John Coon
Each team competing in the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2012 is clad in different coloured uniforms while on the pitch. For a day, these same teams will dress alike away from the pitch as they stand together against doping.
All teams competing in JWRT 2012 are observing Keep Rugby Clean Day on June 26, the third day of match play, by wearing Keep Rugby Clean t-shirts as part of their warm-up gear before each match. Tournament staff and volunteers are also sporting the t-shirts. It is designed as a show of solidarity with efforts to keep performance-enhancing drugs out of Rugby.
"The whole campaign is about raising awareness,” said David Ho, the IRB's Anti-Doping Officer, who is in Salt Lake City to oversee the tournament’s anti-doping programme and to educate the teams on matters relating to this important area of the IRB’s work.
Efforts to keep rugby clean involve a dual approach – testing and education.
Players and management are made aware that testing can occur at any time and in any place. The goal with the anti-doping programme is to encourage players to make good choices.
Testing is an integral part of any anti-doping programme
“Without testing, you don't know,” Ho said. “It's an integral part of any anti-doping programme. Testing and education act as preventive measures.”
Educating players about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs is the other major component of the Keep Rugby Clean initiative. Prior to each tournament, anti-doping resources are sent to each team to familiarise the players and team management on what they need to do to prevent doping.
They are brought up to speed on the testing procedures, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List, Therapeutic Use Exemptions, and certain prohibited substances to gain a better understanding of what is and is not acceptable from an anti-doping standpoint.
Then, at the tournament, Keep Rugby Clean officials meet with teams personally. They offer an overview of the programme and give players and management a chance to ask questions and gain a better understanding of their role in this anti-doping initiative.
Some top players are Keep Rugby Clean ambassadors
Ho explained the goal was to share every bit of information that will help these young players make better choices.
“A lot of sports at the moment are pushing the education and awareness,” Ho said. “It's a key component of doping, not just testing.
The Keep Rugby Clean programme has some key allies within the sport. Many prominent Rugby players worldwide are ambassadors of the programme. Ambassadors in 2012 include David Pocock (Australia), Sam Warburton (Wales), Carla Hohepa (New Zealand), Felipe Contepomi (Argentina), Bryan Habana (South Africa), Heather Moyse (Canada), Cecil Afrika (South Africa) and Vincent Clerc (France). These players are working to offer proof that Rugby can be played at an elite level without drugs.
“These role models have linked their image to the campaign. They're competing clean," said Ho.
Educating players through various platforms
In addition to educating through personal visits and ambassadors, Keep Rugby Clean utilises many online resources as part of its outreach efforts. At its official website www.keeprugbyclean.com, visitors can download many important materials, including the latest anti-doping handbook currently available in nine languages.
They can also participate in Real Winner, an online educational programme that assists players, coaches, administrators and others in learning all of the key aspects of anti-doping. Real Winner is built around five short interactive video modules. The modules can be completed over multiple sessions. Once all five modules are completed, the programme participant receives a certificate recognising their completion of the programme.
Visitors to the website can view content in three languages – English, Spanish and French – and all resources are available in up to nine languages.
The efforts of Keep Rugby Clean have been well received by the international Rugby community. Everyone is doing their part to ensure the sport stays clean, because they see the rewards from fighting against performance enhancing drugs.
“People appreciate that doping is effectively cheating,” Ho said. “Anything we can do to eradicate it in rugby is a good thing."
For more information on the latest efforts to combat doping, visit www.keeprugbyclean.com.
By John Coon