In a week that has seen Russia banned from the Winter Olympics for the performance enhancing drugs that permeate its sport, it is disturbing to report today that an investigation into illegal steroids here has uncovered alleged widespread cheating in New Zealand sport, with up to 80 athletes allegedly involved.

None of them are said to be current Olympians or All Blacks but some are no more than school-age.

It is not long since Drug Free Sport NZ was being criticised in some quarters for taking its programmes to schools more as a precaution than a response to rule-breaking — or so it thought. The allegation that names of school-age players are on the database of a convicted steroids supplier suggest this scourge might already have penetrated college sport.

But most of those reportedly on the dealer's internet list are said to be lower grade, even recreational players, male and female, who have not been the target of Drug Free Sport NZ's educational efforts.


Naturally enough, those efforts have been aimed at elite performers or those approaching that level. But if steroid use is rife at lower levels, it is of concern to more than sporting administrators. The health and fitness industry may need to look to its responsibilities.

The investigation of the supplier was initiated by the medicines regulatory body, Medsafe. The man was packaging anabolic steroids at his home and selling them mostly through a website. He is now serving a two year prison sentence.

His client base was provided to Drug Free Sport NZ and two people — a cricketer and a club rugby player — have received two-year bans from the Sports Tribunal and the Rugby Judiciary respectively. But that could be just the beginning.

A second sweep of the website, Dylan Cleaver reports, found more than 100 clients registered with national sporting organisations.

As Drug Free Sport's chief executive Nick Paterson says in Cleaver's story today, "These people who purchased from the website literally had no idea what they were putting into their bodies."

Medsafe found the home-made products did not meet pharmaceutical standards.

The co-operation between medical and sporting authorities is to be commended.

New Zealand Sport chief executive Peter Miskimmim points out the sharing of the dealer's client list means people might be caught even if they had not returned a positive test for banned substances. If they are buying from a website, they risk its discovery and their names will be on its client base.


The more this can be exposed, the sooner a culture of drug use might be tackled, not only in sport but in recreational and cosmetic pursuits. To have as many as 80 cases exposed will no nothing for New Zealand's sporting image over the time it will take judicial tribunals to deal with them.

But the publicity should be worthwhile if it convinces young people to take true care of their bodies, avoiding dubious substances that can do them untold damage in the long run.

Drug cheats have no place in sport and risk their health. These actions have no place in a responsible, intelligent community.