Concerning reports and data relating to supplement use by students in NZ school sport, along with alarming international trends in youth sports doping, has prompted a number of organisations to band together to provide some guidelines for principals, coaches, students and parents.

A 2014 pilot study conducted by University of Otago on behalf of Drug Free SportNZ across 142 1st XV rugby players showed an alarming use of supplements including:
- 71% use supplements either daily, weekly or monthly.- 2 students reported their current use of banned drugs.- 20% feel they are “at risk” of using banned substances.- 90% were concerned about the safety of supplement products- Only 20% reported receiving information about banned drugs- 50% would not report teammates or opposition members who were doping.

In addition, the survey showed that general attitudes in this NZ group to “sports doping” were consistent with peers in the international setting.
A 2015 report from the SA Institute for Drug Free Sport reported that doping was rife in youth rugby. "The major shocker is that one pupil tested positive for seven anabolic steroids, another for three, one for two, one for a steroid and stimulant, and one for a steroid and cannabis," said the institute's research manager, Amanda Claassen-Smithers.

A recent UK study of supplements chosen because they appeared to contain anabolic agents due to the name of the product, the ingredients listed, or the nature of their advertising found that 23 of the 24 products tested contained anabolic steroids.  An earlier study funded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2001 of nutritional supplements found that of the 600-plus supplements tested, around 15 per cent contained steroids or related compounds which were not listed on the label.
The sporting environment will continue to change rapidly. Just as the way we prepare our top school sportspeople is becoming more physically demanding, so the pressures on those young people are approaching semi-professional levels. It is important that young sportspeople have the knowledge and tools necessary to understand and deal with those pressures, including those surrounding supplement use and doping. To assist this, a group of organisations have worked together to ensure education and advice is available to schools, students and staff in an easily accessible manner.

Drug Free Sport NZ (DFSNZ), NZ Secondary Schools Sports Council (NZSSSC), NZ Rugby (NZR), NZ Rugby Players Association (NZRPA), SportNZ, NZ Athletes Federation (NZAF) and the NZ Olympic Committee (NZOC) have all contributed to this education initiative.

Given the level of reported use, international trends and the risk to the sporting futures and healthy lives of our students, Principals and Sport Directors are strongly encouraged to make use of, and disseminate to their sporting community, the range of educational tools now available by following the links provided or making direct contact with the particular organisation below:

Drug Free SportNZ: On-line educational modules on supplement use and doping in sport (click on the e-learning link) and seminars available for schools. Contact:

NZ Rugby Players Association: Tip Sheets and seminars available for schools. Contact Kevin Senio,
NZ Rugby: Video resources available Contact: Nathan Price,

While the use and abuse of “nutritional supplements” by athletes and doping in sport have been identified as requiring immediate attention, students also need to be aware of additional pressures and potential traps which exist for talented young sportspeople. The NZRPA programme will also provide them with better understanding and adequate tools to ensure that they are equipped to make sound, ethical decisions in response to these.

To improve delivery further, DFSNZ will carry out extended research into the behaviours, attitudes and learning processes of young athletes across a broad range of sports and environments as it relates to supplement use and doping. The research will be overseen by AUT and constitute a doctoral study by the DFSNZ Education Manager.
For any further assistance, contact Garry Carnachan at

“There’s no room for complacency on this issue. Young players, parents and coaches need to be reminded that the best path towards a career in rugby is to get the basics right first and a healthy diet is one key ingredient.” - New Zealand Secondary Schools Rugby Council Chairman Garry Chronican