First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

We'd like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick

More specifically, we'd like those who can afford to pay to start paying. What it comes down to is whether or not you value Daily Maverick. Think of us in terms of your daily cappuccino from your favourite coffee shop. It costs around R35. That’s R1,050 per month on frothy milk. Don’t get us wrong, we’re almost exclusively fuelled by coffee. BUT maybe R200 of that R1,050 could go to the journalism that’s fighting for the country?

We don’t dictate how much we’d like our readers to contribute. After all, how much you value our work is subjective (and frankly, every amount helps). At R200, you get it back in Uber Eats and ride vouchers every month, but that’s just a suggestion. A little less than a week’s worth of cappuccinos.

We can't survive on hope and our own determination. Our country is going to be considerably worse off if we don’t have a strong, sustainable news media. If you’re rejigging your budgets, and it comes to choosing between frothy milk and Daily Maverick, we hope you might reconsider that cappuccino.

We need your help. And we’re not ashamed to ask for it.

Our mission is to Defend Truth. Join Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

‘Guns and Needles’: Young people must be educated o...

South Africa


‘Guns and Needles’: Young people must be educated on damaging consequences of steroids

From left: Award-winning sportswriter Clinton van der Berg and Daily Maverick Sports Editor Craig Ray. (Photos: Supplied)

Speaking at the launch of his book during a Daily Maverick webinar, sportswriter Clinton van der Berg described a society awash with steroids and said young people must be educated about their detrimental effects.

According to award-winning sportswriter Clinton van der Berg, South Africa has one of the highest rates of athletes testing positive for doping, and to tackle the problem, parents and coaches need to educate young people about the detrimental effects of steroids.

Van der Berg, who is the head of communications at SuperSport, was speaking at a Daily Maverick webinar on Thursday during the virtual launch of his book Guns and Needles.

Steroid use is particularly prevalent among schoolboys who play rugby, he said. Van der Berg used the example of an Eastern Cape teenager, Thabiso Bull, who had ambitions of becoming a professional rugby player.

“Bull was a wing and he had great promise. One day his coach was called to [Bull’s] place and he had died because he had taken dirty steroids,” said Van der Berg.

He said some schools had implemented programmes to help pupils who are using steroids. At Johannesburg’s King Edward VII school, there is an amnesty programme, said Van der Berg.

“The school says to the boys, ‘We know you’re on steroids, come forward and we will get you counselling and help get you off them’. Which is very progressive. 

“Education is critical. There is no two ways about it: very often it’s going to end badly and a poor kid is going to be damaged.”  

Van der Berg used the example of Aphiwe Dyantyi’s rugby career being derailed by a positive drug test. In 2020, Dyantyi was banned from participating in the sport for four years.

Steroids are often used by athletes to build muscle or to quickly recover from injuries. 

South Africa is familiar with stories of teenage athletes taking steroids. In 1995, Liza de Villiers became the youngest athlete to test positive for doping, at the age of 14.

The New York Times reported that “officials said her urine sample at the April junior championships contained the prohibited substances nandrolone, an anabolic steroid, and fencamfamine, a stimulant”.

At the time, De Villiers did what many athletes to this day do: she denied having taken steroids. However, she was banned from competing in running competitions. When she went back to the track field, “she was never quite the same”, said Craig Ray, Maverick Sports editor. 

Van der Berg’s research also found that getting access to steroids was fairly easy for teenagers as well as athletes. He admitted that he had a “brief flirtation with steroids”, as Ray put it. 

Van der Berg said that he had been offered steroids by someone from the gym. “I tried [Deca-Durabolin]. I moved off it and didn’t try it again,” he said.

In another case, Van der Berg witnessed someone selling steroids from their car outside the gym. 

In Guns and Needles, Van der Berg uses a long-time friend, Kenny, as a case study of someone who uses steroids. Kenny is a former professional boxer.

“[Kenny] is enormous and has taken drugs for 13 years. He doesn’t see it as betraying the sport. For him, he just wants to look good and he knows full well the consequences,” said Van der Berg. 

As to the types of people who are prone to use steroids, Van der Berg said that there are two types. One group is on steroids because they want to be bigger.

“This person could be a rugby player or a schoolboy or they’re trying to recover from an injury,” he said. 

The other group uses steroids for aesthetic reasons. “There was a school in Durban that had a high positive steroid use and it was because the boys wanted to look good when they go to the beach. A lot of gym guys are getting big for the girls,” said Van der Berg. DM



Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

No Comments, yet

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted