School sport legislation

| September 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Xolani Majola

The world’s attention was focused on the sporting events taking place. Parallels can be drawn between the processes involved in organising the Olympics event and the processes schools normally go through when preparing for their annual sport events. Although the magnitude and scope may be vastly different, in both there are safety concerns involved; the promotion of fair competition; the monitoring of substance abuse; and observing legislation governing the testing of suspected athletes, and the consequences thereof. What is clear is that sport events and competitions are underpinned by strict adherence to regulations and relevant policies.

ISASA analyses sport legislation

This article highlights the specific legislation that applies to sport, particularly at school level, and the associated legislation that relates to drug searches and testing. It also looks at the subsidiary issue of health supplement abuse by school athletes and how this may contribute to a growing trend, eventually leading towards the general abuse of drugs. ISASA has covered different pieces of legislation relevant to independent schools – ranging from specific legislation dealing with managing successful sport events, safety and security in sport to conducting drug searching and testing.

Sport legislation is there primarily to provide frameworks through which sport can be played safely within the ambit of the law.

We have analysed legislation such as the Safety at Sports and Recreation Events Act1 promulgated in 2010, and managed to alert schools to issues such as:

  • how to host major sport events of up to 2 000 people or more successfully
  • the need for safety certificates before major events take place, and providing schools with accurate information regarding this
  • taking out public liability insurance for an event, as a precautionary measure should the unforeseen happen, and assisting schools as organisers to ensure this is done.

Our member schools have always been adequately prepared to deal effectively with emergencies, due to their high knowledge and skills. As a result, our legislative interventions have contributed towards most of our member schools running relatively incident-free major sport events.

Ensuring health and safety Sometimes we analyse legislation that at first glance might appear to be unrelated to sport, such as the Fertilizers, Farm Feed, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act 36 of 1947.2 Through analysis of this act, we have been able to warn schools to protect all learners, teachers and the school community in general against contamination by chemicals or fertilizers that may be used for the upkeep of their sports fields, gardens and lawns, and sometimes chemicals used to control pests. Schools are encouraged to make sure that they take the necessary precautions before, during and after the administration of relevant chemicals or fertilizers. In some instances, there may be a need to quarantine the area for a specified period.

The danger in this regard is very real, and could expose schools to liability if they are negligent. For example, one of South Africa’s rugby greats, Joost van der Westhuizen, was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and given two to five years to live as there is no cure for this condition. Specialist doctors in the United States attending to Van der Westhuizen have suggested that there could be a strong link between his condition and the fertilizers and paint used on rugby fields. Upon further reflection, Van der Westhuizen said: “I remembered having spent some time on farms as a child, but then it struck me: from the age of five I have been playing rugby and what did I do? I passed the ball. And what did I do before feeding a scrum or passing? I licked my fingers.”3

This example illustrates how ISASA, through providing useful information and advice, has managed to contribute towards the promotion of safe and healthy sport environments at our member schools.

ISASA takes note of latest information

ISASA’s policy unit applies a multi-pronged approach when it comes to research relating to any policy matters that might impact on our sector. We keep tabs on the latest matters relating to health and safety issues at school level. In June 2011, a seminar was held at Vodaworld in Midrand, Johannesburg, focusing on ‘The role of supplements in sports’. It was organised by the South African Institute for Drug-free Sports (SAIDS) and the South African Sports Medicine Association (SASMA). SAIDS is a statutory body funded by the Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa. It is responsible for carrying out a drug testing and education programme and also works with international agencies like the World Anti- Doping Agency (WADA) to aid the fight against drugs in sport.

Panellists participating in the seminar agreed on the impact of what are known as ‘designer’ sport supplements on different sport codes. According to SAIDS, there is aggressive marketing of these products, which has led to large numbers of consumers willing to pay for and use these products in the hope that they will lead to enhanced sporting performance. It seems that parents fuel the use of supplements by asking nutritionists for the best products for their children when they are chosen for competitions and trials, particularly in highly competitive sports such as high school rugby. By attending such seminars, we are able to stay abreast of legislative developments and provide schools with the latest research outputs and trends.

Member schools look to ISASA for news

The biggest challenge for schools is adhering to the correct code of ethics in sport. ISASA continues to evaluate how the relevant legislation might impact on school environments. Our objective is to assist schools from a regulatory point of view and give advice on best practice and measures that can be employed.

In order to address drug problems in school sport, schools must have knowledge of relevant regulatory frameworks, must access appropriate information on how to respond to drug abuse, and must develop proactive measures aimed at reducing occurrences of drug abuse at schools and promoting general safety during events. Well-informed schools are likely to develop relevant sports education programmes to eliminate doping in sport as well as extending such programmes to include the general abuse of drugs as an undesirable social habit within school environments. As ISASA, we are determined to continue monitoring the entire legislative environment, looking for ways in which we can assist our member schools to eliminate the possibilities of unchecked drug abuse and its negative impact on general school life and the well-being of learners.

References:

1. Visit http://www.info.gov.za to access all government legislation.

2. This act can also be viewed at: http://www.nda.agric.za/doaDev/sideMenu/ActNo36_1947/Act%2 036%20of%201947.pdf.

3. See http://neal-collins.blogspot.com/2011/12/joost-van-derwesthuizen- poisoned-by.html.

Category: Spring 2012

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