Johannesburg - South African rugby bosses on Wednesday backed a new anti-doping education and testing programme for high schools.

The SA Rugby Union (Saru) urged rugby-playing schools to sign up for the initiative, being rolled out in each province by the SA Institute for Drug Free Sport (Saids).

“We condemn the use of illegal substances and are vigilant in the fight to ensure that this scourge remains limited to a minority,” Saru CEO Jurie Roux said.

“Saru is aggressive in its anti-doping strategy and contributes funds to the Saids testing programme so that we can reach every level of the game. Saru would encourage all schools to sign up and become part of Saids school testing programme.”

Roux said Saru had jurisdiction over schoolboy rugby only at Saru Youth Week tournaments, and not at any other school rugby events.

“We’ve collaborated with Saids to implement a testing programme at the Saru Youth Weeks, and now test players at the Grant Khomo U16 tournament; the Under 18 Academy tournament; and we randomly test 50 percent of all boys who participate at the Under 18 Coca-Cola Craven Week,” Roux said.

“We’re very pleased that Saids have been able to throw the net wider than we ever could, and we fully support this move to drive pupil education and testing at schools.”

In addition to its testing programme, Saru also had education workshops at the Youth Week tournaments to raise awareness about the dangers of doping, the effect positive tests have on players’ careers, and the moral considerations.

“Despite the extensive testing at senior level, no Springbok has tested positive for steroids since 1996,” said Roux.

“However, we’re not complacent and are aware that the temptations are much greater at the youth level of the game.

“Rugby has always prided itself as a hard game, but one that is played with the highest regard for fair play and camaraderie. The use of performance-enhancing drugs goes against that creed.”