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Rugby wages war on drugs

JONE KALOUNIVITI
Thursday, January 11, 2007

THE Fiji Rugby Union is incorporating into its operations an educational and awareness program to help combat the marijuanna culture in Fiji rugby.

Now marijuanna has ruled as an illegal sports drug and also the International Rugby Board imposing compulsory random drug testing at all grades of the sport in international competition.

Many seasoned rugby players have at one time or another resorted to drug-use in their career.

The FRU has since 2006 taken a proactive approach to educate players and taking the tests at local levels to help players acclimitise to the demands and requirements.

In its early stages, the services of seasoned and widely travelled 7s players Epeli Dranivasa, Nasoni Roko and Waisale Serevi will be sought to help educate teams like the under-19 Fiji teams based on their experiences and knowledge of drug testing overseas and the effects of drugs.

FRU operations manager Jese Sikivou said yesterday statements made in the media recently about the scheduled drug-testing exercise for the recently selected U-19 team drew the wrong public response.

"I think the message put out by that statement was if you are tested positive, you go out,'' said Sikivou.

"The whole point of this exercise is two-fold. We all know many of our rugby players take the drug, some took it months ago, some maybe only tested it, others do it frequently.

"One puff from a joint and you can have the drug active and detectable in your blood for a minimum of six-weeks.

"What this exercise is about is to let players know this is the difference between a $75,000 contract and a life of unemployment in the village if they are caught.

"We want to avoid an international embarrassment and also prevent promising players from killing their own careers if they are caught at International tournaments with a positive rating in their blood.

"Which is why we have started with this schoolboys team, most of whom will be touring for the first time."

The move has been applauded by Fiji U-19 management Josua Toakula and Waisake Tuicakau who have spent more than a decade in schoolboys rugby.

Tuicakau said with this new approach, players will know better because the drug will be detactable in your system for as long as six-weeks.

The local drug control officer sanctioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Fanny Simpson will be delivering the educational aspect of the program will be.

Already she has done such programs with the 7s rugby team and other major sports preparing for tours.

Rugby star Vilimoni Delasau who was banned by the IRB for eight-months. Sikivou said now Delasau has to leave with the stigma.

"These are the things we want avoid with our future crop of players. No one will ask what situation you were in to make you take it, all they know is that it was in your blood."

The program, Sikivou says is inline with the already established Learners Key Program at the Fiji Institute of Technology.

"It's the same approach we're undertaking like the program in FIT where we try and prepare our players for the working world.

"So alongside those educational aspects we will be going forth with the drug awareness and educational program.

What the players will also learn about are the various banned substances in sports.

Sikivou said with more funding in future, FRU wants to take the program to village level.

For years the use of this widely prevalent and inexpensive drug has been widely used in rugby circles for players to get a high before the game or to relieve stress.

The local drug control officer sanctioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Fanny Simpson will be delivering the educational aspect of the program will be.

Already she has done such programs with the 7s rugby team and other major sports preparing for tours.





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