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The search for size: a doping risk factor in adolescent rugby?
  1. Kevin Till,
  2. Ben Jones,
  3. Jim McKenna,
  4. Lisa Whitaker,
  5. Susan H Backhouse
  1. Centre for Sports Performance, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Susan H Backhouse, Centre for Sports Performance, Leeds Beckett University, Headingley Campus, Fairfax Hall 217, Leeds LS6 3QT, UK; S.Backhouse{at}

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Rugby Union is currently under the spotlight with 18 individuals from the UK currently banned from the sport for committing an anti-doping rule violation(s). Notably, the vast majority of these cases arise from the amateur and/or schoolboy game.1 Beyond the UK, 12 of 52 South African schoolboy rugby players recently returned positive tests for using anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS).2 The drive for players becoming bigger, stronger and faster may be a powerful determinant of these worrisome developments. With this motivation in mind, is it entirely coincidental that such concerns accompany evidence of increased doping that yields these biological changes?

The emphasis on physical attributes within rugby tracks its evolution. For example, the match demands (eg, number of collisions) have increased since professionalisation of the game in the 1990s, accompanied by progressive increases in the size and physical attributes of players.3 A French study4 highlighted the importance of body size (height and body mass) in discriminating between successful and less successful teams in the rugby union World …

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  • Twitter Follow Benjamin Jones at @23benjones and Susan Backhouse at @susanbackhouse

  • Competing interests SHB, JM and LW have received funding from the Rugby Football Union to examine schoolboy use of performance and image enhancing substances. KT and BJ have received financial assistance from Yorkshire Carnegie Rugby Union Club to support the development of junior rugby players in Yorkshire.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.