Banned Melrose rugby player Sam Chalmers broke down in tears on Monday as he talked about his experience and the perils of wrong decision-making.
The 19-year-old, who is serving a two-year suspension for taking a banned substance, was taking part in the Clean Sport initiative, launched this week by the Borders Athlete Support Programme (ASP).
Chalmers spoke to the athletes, coaches and parents about his experience, which saw poor judgement leading him to take a supplement that he suspected was not legal, his remorse and the real and full consequences of his actions over and above the two-year suspension. And the Scotland age-grade player was visibly emotional when telling the gathering about the moment he told his dad, former Scotland international Craig, of his failed drugs test.
“I was stupid and naive, and I’m still mortified and embarrassed by what I did,” he said.
“I not only let myself down but my club and family as well. What I did was wrong and I hope that talking to the ASP athletes about it will help them realise how important it is that they are strong when it comes to making the right decisions.”
The initiative follows the ASP formalising a Clean Sport Commitment Statement in line with UK Anti-Doping’s clean sport policy and every ASP athlete, current and future, is being asked to sign a Clean Sport pledge always to train and compete in line with the spirit of sport.
Karen Patterson mother of Robbie, Scottish U15 badminton champion from Eyemouth, was one of many parents present at the launch and felt that Chalmers’ input was of great help to both parents and athletes.
“Hearing Sam’s talk on his recent experiences highlighted to us as parents how easy it is for them to be influenced when the pressure to achieve becomes too much,” she said.
“What Sam did today may not have helped him but it took a huge amount of courage to talk to a room of complete strangers. Him finding the courage to do this enabled all the athletes to see what one wrong decision can do to your career.”
Chair of the ASP, Rick Kenney, added: “We are grateful to Sam for daring to stick his head above the parapet to speak to our athletes of his regrets and in contributing to a valuable lesson to them.”
“I believe we are the first organisation of our sort in the UK to formalise our commitment to clean sport in this way, and there is a strong message here that we can spread, not just to our own athletes, but to the wider sporting community in the Scottish Borders.
ASP Manager, Gregor Nicholson believes that, while it is important to get the anti-doping message across, that educating athletes is also a priority. UK Anti-Doping have been of great assistance in providing us with guidance and some resources but although our initiative stems from their policy, clean sport is not just about anti-doping,” he explained.
“There is also a significant difference between the provision of anti-doping information and anti-doping education. The information is important, particularly to help avoid inadvertent doping, for example through over-the-counter or prescribed medication, and in light of Sam’s experience, we are now doing more to provide information links to all our athletes and coaches.
“But anti-doping education needs to be based on their values and morals, not just in sport, but in life in general.”