Former mountain bike champion Brandon Stewart has suffered a setback in his fight against a possible ban from cycling for using banned performance-enhancing medication.
In July, Stewart tested positive after two injections of a testosterone booster, Nebido, by his doctor between February and April last year. His case is far from cut and dried and he claims he was told he could take the medication by the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids).
On Monday night the 2008 South African cross-country champion was informed that his appeal against Saids’ refusal to allow him a medical exemption had been dismissed.
This ruling means Stewart will face a hearing and possible ban for the doping offence.
The treatment was the result of bouts of depression and mood swings which led him to consult a doctor who recommended the injections. Stewart contacted Saids to ask for a Therapeutic Use Exemption which would allow him to compete while receiving treatment.
Stewart claims he was told by the Saids Therapeutic Use Exemption liaison, Anique Coetzee, that he could compete while his application was processed. In April he was informed, via an e-mail from Coetzee, that his application had been declined because his testosterone levels were not far enough below normal to justify the treatment while competing.
The e-mail recommended that Stewart have further tests done by an endocrinologist approved by Saids and stated that he could continue racing while the additional reports were under review.
Stewart immediately stopped treatment and, in July, was informed that his second exemption application, based on reports from the endocrinologist, had also been denied.
Two days before being told his appeal was unsuccessful, and three months after stopping treatment, Stewart underwent a routine out-of-competition drug test and in October he was told by Cycling SA that he had tested positive for a banned substance.
Stewart immediately appealed against this finding, saying he had kept Saids informed of the need for his treatment and that he had been off treatment since the first application had been denied.
FedGroup, the major sponsors of the professional mountain biking team Stewart rides for, believes that current processes focused on keeping South African sport drug-free are in urgent need of review.
Stewart, the owner of the Fedgroup Itec Mountain Bike Team, will feel the effects of the ruling later this month when he is prevented from attending the Absa Cape Epic, an event he has completed all 10 times to date – one of only nine riders to do so.