MELROSE teenager Sam Chalmers has admitted that he felt under constant pressure as an aspiring rugby player to ‘bulk up’ but apologised to his club, his family and the game of rugby after turning to steroids for help.
It emerged last month that the 19-year-old had tested positive in a random drugs test during training in May while with the Scotland Under-20s.
Chalmers, son of former Scotland and British Lions No 10 Craig, was not even due to be in the squad, having failed to make the cut for the Junior World Championships, but the team was missing several players so the skilful youngster was drafted on to the bench for a warm-up with Ireland.
The SRU have carried out more than 800 tests in the past four years and the only other adverse finding was from another amateur player, Neil Tunnah, who took a slimming product on retiring from the game, only to return once to help out Watsonians, and was banned for five months.
Chalmers pled guilty at an IRB tribunal two weeks ago to taking methandienone and stanozolol, both listed as anabolic androgenic steroids in the 2013 list of prohibited substances issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency, and has been suspended from all rugby for two years.
He had taken the substances in a product called Pro-SD, ordered over the internet. Costing £27 for one pack, the manufacturer makes no secret of the fact that it is an anabolic steroid, stating: “Also known as Methasteron, [Pro-SD] is a highly anabolic designer supplement, suited for users looking for explosive gains in size and strength. Pro-SD is without a doubt mg for mg one of the most potent designer supplements available … many users report gains of between 8-12 lbs in as little as three weeks on this supplement.”
Chalmers, who is diabetic and suffers from multiple allergies, has been on the fringes of Scotland age-grade calls in recent years, but regularly been told that at 12st 8lb, the 5ft 11in stand-off lacks the weight to compete at the top level. That goes to the heart of the real issue in this sorry episode – the pressure faced by young players to cope with the developments in rugby since it turned professional. Pro players now commonly put on up to three or four stones in their career, which worries many medics and parents.
Chalmers admitted that he felt under “constant pressure” to put on weight, but stated unequivocally that there was no excuse for doing what he did, warning others against repeating his “stupid” mistake.
Admitting to the IRB that his move was “desperate”, he stated: “First of all I would like to apologise to my club Melrose RFC, my team-mates, the Scottish Rugby Union, my friends and my family. I am disappointed in myself and have to take personal responsibility for this incident which has ultimately led me to being banned from the game I have grown up with and love so much.
“I have been stupid, naive and impressionable and would urge other young players not to give in to the constant pressure to be bigger in the manner that I did over a two-week period in April last season.
“After my experience I would encourage young players to seek out the correct advice from the right places before taking any kind of supplement or product. I hope over time I can be forgiven for my mistake and I can come back to compete in the game I love so much.”
The IRB credited Chalmers with his instant acknowledgement of guilt and his remorse, stating that he had offered to participate in any anti-doping education programme, but re-iterated: “His experience is a salutary warning to any person tempted to take what is sometimes described as a ‘short cut’. The only thing cut short is this young man’s rugby career. He was entirely at fault and, as he candidly accepted, he accepts the consequences.”
His father Craig, who won 60 caps for Scotland, said: “Sam has made a huge mistake, but anyone that knows him will tell you what a pleasant, polite young man he is. I must point out that Sam’s family in no way condone what he has done, but we will be there to support and help him through this difficult time.
“I believe the lessons Sam has learned from this experience will only make him stronger and when he does return to rugby you will see a player who has matured.”