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Ludwick Mamabolo, winner of the 2012 Comrades Marathon, has tested positive for a banned substance and could be stripped of his title.
Khalid Galant, CEO of the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids), said yesterday that tests on the sample Mamabolo provided after the race found traces of methylhexaneamine. This banned stimulant provides athletes with energy, can mask fatigue and provides a heightened sense of awareness.
The Limpopo runner was the first South African to win the men’s race in seven years.
Now he faces a two-year ban from running and he might have to forfeit his gold medal and R300 000 prize money. However, it was protocol to withhold the prize money and the gold medal until all drug tests were cleared.
“We only pay the prize money and hand over the medal after they have been cleared (by Saids),” said Johan van Staden, Comrades Marathon Association race director, adding that Mamabolo had not received either yet.
After this year’s race, Saids conducted 20 dope tests on the top 10 male and female runners.
Two results came back positive.
One was a sample with raised levels of testosterone, which would be tested in Germany to establish the cause of the result.
The other was Mamabolo’s. His sample was confirmed to have contained methylhexaneamine after tests at the SA Doping Control Laboratory at the University of the Free State, in Bloemfontein.
Galant said that procedure dictated that Mamabolo had the right to request that his B sample be tested (the post-race sample is divided into two and sealed).
If that proved positive he would face an independent tribunal.
“The tribunal is normally made up of a legal person, a sports medicine practitioner and a sports management professional,” said Galant.
The date for the hearing was likely to be decided next week.
According to Galant, both Mamabolo and Athletics South Africa, who were unable to comment pending the final outcome, were notified yesterday of the positive result.
“If found guilty he could be banned for two years,” Galant said, but added that Mamabolo “was innocent until proven otherwise”.
They would wait until the final results were in before determining a possible punishment.
Van Staden said that if Mamabolo was found guilty by Saids, he would automatically be stripped of his title. Second-placed Bongmusa Mthembu, another South African, would be promoted to first place.
Other notable cases of positive doping tests at recent Comrades have been those of Charl Mattheus who won in 1992 and Sergio Motsoeneng who was a top 10 finisher in 2010. Both were later disqualified.
Glen Hagemann, president of the South African Sports Medicine Association, warned that the positive test might be a result of contaminated supplements rather than Mamabolo consciously taking the banned stimulant.
“This is the same substance that Bjorn Basson and Chiliboy Ralepelle tested positive for,” he said, referring to the two Springbok rugby players who were sent home from the UK in 2010 after they had tested positive.
The pair were later cleared and allowed to continue to play rugby after it was found they were not to blame for taking the banned substance.
It was determined that a supplement they had consumed was contaminated.
“My gut feeling is that he took it inadvertently,” said Hagemann.
He said that methylhexaneamine was showing up more often in dope tests because it was a common contaminant in over-the-counter supplements.
“The most likely scenario is that it was a contaminant in his supplements.”
Mamabolo’s supplement sponsors, 32GI, disagreed, and said that “there was no chance whatsoever” that their products were to blame.
“Our ingredients are natural and we do not add any unnecessary additives,” said Mark Wolff, a director at 32GI.
“We had 11 runners in the top 10 men and women at the Comrades,” he said, adding that no other positive tests on their sponsored runners had emerged.
Mamabolo could not be reached for comment.