A new mobile phone application is making it easier for South African athletes to differentiate between banned and unbanned substances in sport.
The South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) has announced the new mobisite and an innovative iPhone app, which brings sportsmen and -women the most up-to-date drug information.
It’s aimed at ensuring the country’s athletes avoid using banned substances unwittingly.
"The app will benefit our athletes. They can download the app for free and get quick access to the list of banned and permitted substances in sport,” said SAIDS CEO Khalid Galant.
"Now they can check the status of medication anytime, anywhere and can see, at the touch of a button, which drugs are approved and which ones are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency,” Galant added.
More than 5 000 professional athletes will benefit from the educational initiative, as well as scores of up-and-coming amateurs.
Doctors are advised to use the app to access the latest information on banned drugs, as negligent subscription may risk athletes’ careers.
“Medical doctors who treat athletes will be able to use the app to ascertain whether the drugs they wish to prescribe to their patients are banned or permitted," said Gallant.
The initiative is about making anti-doping education material “accessible to an even wider audience", SAIDS said.
The institute launched a major campaign to raise awareness about illegal performance-enhancing substances in June 2011. The “I Play Fair, Say No to Doping” drive aims to curb doping among local athletes.
The Cape Town-based public organisation conceded that a number of athletes in the country were inadvertently taking banned drugs. The doping problem was compounded by lack of broad knowledge on banned supplements in local athletics, SAIDS said.The mobisite will come in handy for athletes who do not have iPhones. "Those who don't have iPhones can access the info via the new Drug-Free Sport mobisite,” said Galant.
“We will monitor how these audiences utilise the tool and will look at extending the app to include Blackberry and Android in the future."
Liability for banned substances
Athletes have been urged to be more cautious when taking any form of supplement, as the individual bears the brunt for doping. Testing positive for anabolic steroids could lead to at least two years banned from sport.
"For athletes concerned with testing positive as the result of taking prescribed medications, it is important for them to understand that strict liability applies, and that if they choose to take banned substances, they do so at their own risk."
SAIDS wants the government to introduce regulation policies for the supplements manufacturing and distribution sector, which it believes it was infiltrated by unscrupulous dealers. It blames the lack of regulation for the prevalence of banned drugs like anabolic and prohormones stimulants in athletics.
The organisation is determined to root out general accessibility to banned steroids. It recently launched an intelligence unit that investigates syndicates selling illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
Innovative international trend
The SAIDS app follows latest international trends, and the organisation prides itself in being one of the earliest agencies to adopt it.
Swiss and German anti-doping agencies also launched their versions of the mobile phone application in August 2011. “We are the third anti-doping agency worldwide to do one," according to Gallant.