Nhlanhla Dube

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Say no to drugs!

By far the most common cause of positive doping cases in football are cannabis and cocaine. Fifa’s opinion is that this is a fundamental social problem outside the scope of doping.

In our last edition we carried a story on the alleged substance abuse by some Highlanders players, a development that has since sent tongues wagging among local football pundits and fans.

During the course of this week, the team’s Chief Executive Officer Nhlanhla Dube couldn’t keep quiet saying players are falling victim to the illicit drug popularly known as Ingoma or Bronco.

“The pressures on a young footballer can be debilitating. Fame, admiration, testosterone, ego and the premature feeling of arrival . . . Late nights, parties, friends and misleading scrubs are all a frightening forest of landmines. The current scourge is Ngoma/ Bronco. Help!!!!,” posted Dube posting on his official Twitter account.

He added: “The code of conduct attempts to deal with these issues. The difficulty however, is confirming the behaviour. There’s lots of secrecy and denial. What shows it up is negative or receding performance. Unfortunately we’re as a country still lagging behind on the medical tests side.”

It reveals the need for collaboration far beyond the capacity of anti-doping agencies and sports organisations. But football players can play an important part in it by saying no — and save their careers.

Cannabis causes subjective effects of relaxation and contentment. Objective tests of psychological or physical performance, however, all show impairment.

Physically, the heart rate increases and blood pressure drops.

Every football player who consumes cannabis for recreation purposes risks a positive doping test in competitions.

After taking a single dose, the metabolite tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can usually be detected for three to five days, but it can also be found in the urine for as long as twelve days. Obviously, after stopping their consumption, heavy users will test positive much longer than infrequent.

In neighbouring South Africa, nimble-footed Andile Jali, is reportedly facing expulsion at Mamelodi Sundowns over alcohol abuse.

Jali has reportedly developed a drinking problem since returning from South Africa from Belgium.

According to the Sunday World, Jali failed three pre-training breathalyser tests at the club.

It is alleged that there was a burst-up between Jali and coach Pitso Mosimane over his excessive drinking.

The world over, evidence has become available about the extent of illicit drug use in many sports.

Although indications are that the use of recreational drugs by professional footballers is common, there is no evidence to suggest that the use of performance enhancing drugs is common.

There is, however, no room for complacency.

It is clear that, as the rewards associated with football success continue to increase, the pace and intensity of the game increase, and the pressures on players to perform, over long periods of time and at the highest level, continue to grow, so the pressure on players to use performance enhancing drugs are also likely to increase rather than decrease.

The football authorities in Zimbabwe need to keep their policies and practices under review.