The head of New Zealand's anti-doping agency says there is an increasing risk of high-school rugby players using performance-enhancing drugs, and drug testing may be implemented to combat the issue.

Drugfree Sport NZ chief executive Graeme Steel said there were concerns that the use of supplements could be the start of a bigger problem among under 19-year-old players.

"At the moment there are no specific plans to do anything other than initial research, but looking forward and given the experience overseas, we think there's a significant likelihood that we will need to do some testing at some point," Mr Steel said.

He said there was strong evidence of drug use in schoolboy rugby overseas, especially in South Africa and in the UK. "Given the international experience and given the growing pressure on the young kids at that level, we are thinking that there's a strong chance that will be where we get to, but there's a few steps to go before then.


"There is currently no move with respect to first XV, except the realisation that there's potentially a problem, certainly around supplement use and possibly around other drug use. We want to work with the schools to make sure we get ahead of the problem and don't get blindsided by it."

Drugfree Sport NZ ran an education programme and did testing at an under-19 tournament in August and September, and Mr Steel said education was one of the first steps that needed to be taken to combat any problem.

"If the kids understand the risks, that would solve a great deal of the problem."

Before any testing programme was implemented, he said schools would be informed.

"It's not something that we would just impose on them. I think everybody understands that a successful first XV for many schools is a significant status symbol and they invest a lot of money and put a lot of emphasis on winning."

He said evidence overseas suggested that this could lead to problems. Drugfree Sport NZ wanted to make sure schools had the right perspective towards winning and said a testing programme could prevent people from thinking of using performance-enhancing drugs, Mr Steel said.

He hoped schools and parents would see this as a good thing for the kids and the competition they were playing in.