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Cape Town – Former Lions, Western Force and All Blacks coach John Mitchell believes South Africa’s obsession with size is causing rugby players to start doping as early as schoolboy level.

Mitchell, via a column for Vodacom Rugby, has expressed his concern for what he fears is a growing trend in the modern game, with South Africa not excluded.

“In South Africa, doping is an issue that starts at schoolboy level. The game is taken very seriously and players are often put under pressure to perform from parents and coaches alike,” Mitchell wrote.

“Fundamentally, the problem in South Africa is that so much emphasis is placed on the size of players. The perception in this country is that you have to be big in order to become a professional rugby player – it’s no wonder schoolboys want to bulk up.

“Having worked with South African players across all age-group levels, I have found that there’s more of a focus on stationary weight training and getting into a gym than conditioning and basic fundamentals such as catch and pass, which is practiced in New Zealand.”

Mitchell believes it’s important that the game’s governing body and national rugby unions to continually educate players about the pitfalls of ingesting drugs and what is on the banned substances list.

“While some players intentionally dope, at times it’s genuinely unintentional – for instance through the use of an asthma pump or supplements,” Mitchell continued.

– Sport24