Comrades winner Ludwick Mamabolo should be given the benefit of the doubt and could have inadvertently taken a banned substance.
This was the reaction of Craig Fry, former manager of second placed runner Bongumusa Mthembu, on hearing that Mamabolo tested positive for a banned substance and could be stripped of his title.
The South African Institute for Drug Free Sport (Saids) CEO Khalid Galant said Mamabolo, 35, tested positive for methylhexaneamine. Galant said banned stimulants such as methylhexaneamine gave athletes a heightened sense of awareness, energy, and euphoria, and could mask fatigue levels in long-distance races such as the Comrades.
Fry suggested that top athletes be tested before the Comrades marathon to avoid future incidents.
He said it was costly but for the R300 000 prize money up for grabs, it should be done.
Fry said that incidents such as this would hurt the sport but would not cause permanent damage to the race. “Ludwick is a very good athlete. I think he probably took something without knowing that it was banned.”
Fry said many banned substances could be found in supplements.
He also said that other athletes who won prize money would not receive a cent until the final results were obtained in the next month or so.
The manager of the Formula 1 Club, Cliff Chinnasamy, said on Tuesday that it was a very sad day for South African running. Last year’s winner Steven Muzhingi was a member of the Formula 1 Club.
Chinnasamy said South Africans were over the moon after a local had won the race after seven years. He said Mamabolo testing positive for doping created a bad image for the country.
Saids conducted 20 doping control tests, which included the top 10 finishers in the men and women’s categories.
“As per the protocol for testosterone cases, we have to rule out endogenous production (manufactured in the body) of testosterone by the athlete’s body and any medical abnormality,” Galant said.
He said the sample had been sent for further analysis to the doping control laboratory in Cologne, Germany. Galant said in about four weeks, when the results were available, the institute would know for sure if, indeed, Mamabolo tested positive for testosterone.
Galant explained that the original sample was divided into an “A” and “B” sample. The B sample is a 30ml sample of the original sample. The two samples are independently sealed with the B sample only being opened at the request of the athlete. Galant said Mamabolo might have witnesses at the opening of the second sample to ensure it had not been tampered with.
He also said that another runner also tested positive for high testosterone levels.
Galant said the race had always been on the Saids testing calendar because of the high prestige and prize money awarded.
Head of Athletics South Africa’s Doping Commission, Chris Hattingh, agreed that there was some merit to testing runners before the race but said that it was logistically impossible to get runners, from around the world, tested a few weeks before the race.
Hattingh said most positive dope tests came from the use of supplements.
He said it was concerning that supplements in the country were not legislated. “There have been instances where ingredients used in supplements have come from a contaminated line. Even experts can’t tell you whether a supplement contains banned substances. Until we get proper legislation, this is a very dangerous area for athletes to play in,” he said.
Hattingh shared Fry’s sentiments that this incident would not tarnish the sport.
Nick Bester manager of the Nedbank Running Club said athletes should declare whatever supplements they were on. “These substances can’t be bought over the counter. The onus is on the athlete to keep clean,” Bester said.
Ray de Vries who has been managing athletes for more than 25 years said there was no excuse for testing positive for a banned substance. “We hoped and prayed for a South African winner. And this is like a kick in the gut,” he said.
He said if an athlete was not sure of a substance, he could call Saids to find out if it was allowed.
The Comrades Marathon Association and Mr Price, who sponsored Mamabolo, could not be reached for comment.