Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Sport, Kevin O’Keeffe has said that the use of performance enhancing drugs in schools, while at a low level at present, must be stamped out before any culture of tolerance is allowed to develop.

Deputy O’Keeffe was commenting after calls for mandatory drug testing for school rugby players.

“The IRFU, of course, have a role to play in the testing and monitoring of illegal drug use in their competitions.

“However, the ad hoc approach to drug use in schools needs a uniform response that includes all codes – fundamentally schools and the Department of Education need to step in and provide guidance and advice.

“Drug use, be it for sport or recreation, cannot be tolerated and condoned in our schools.

“While I suspect that the number of underage rugby players taking drugs is small, the fact that it is happening at all should be a worry, and we must ensure that it does not spread within that sport or into other sporting codes.

“Investment is needed to ensure that young sports people are aware about the dangers of illegal drug use in sport. Some may choose to ignore such warnings, but that is where the potential for drug testing will come into play.

“I do believe that too much pressure is being placed on young people taking part in sport at school and in their clubs.

“Of course, there will be some who secure a career in professional support based on what they do at school-level.

“It would serve youth sport much better if all the sporting NGOs came together to address it collectively,” concluded O’Keeffe.