Durban - Officials are ready to prevent a repeat of the drug scandal that rocked the 2012 Comrades when winner Ludwick Mamabolo tested positive but later cleared.
Race director Rowyn James said on Thursday the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport, which was responsible for testing, had all the necessary gear and systems in place to ensure a clean event. The presence of Athletics KZN officials would strengthen the process.
The race has had its share of drugs scandals, most famously when Mamabolo was accused of using methylhexaneamine to achieve his victory. Mamabolo’s A and B samples tested positive for the stimulant, but the athlete was eventually cleared.
Eleven months after crossing the finish line first, he was cleared to collect his gold medal and the R300 000 winner’s cheque at Comrades House in Pietermaritzburg.
James said it was all systems go for this year’s race and contingency plans were in place.
On Saturday, he said, the SAPS bomb squad would conduct a sweep at the start (Pietermaritzburg) and finish (Durban). The process would be repeated on race day.
said 300 community marshals would work with the SAPS, Metro Police and private security members. Police would guard crime hot spots and areas where there were frequent service delivery protests to ensure runners were not disturbed.
Emergency and medical services were in place.
“An emergency helicopter will be available to ensure immediate medical assistance for runners,” said James. The services would be controlled from Durban. There would be eight physio and first aid stations, with physiotherapists, professional nurses and paramedical stuff.
A critical care medical tent at the finish would be manned by 50 doctors and interns and 20 nurses and have mini laboratories.
There would also be a fully equipped, three-bed resuscitation area with specialist emergency team.
The Netcare hospital group would provide the facilities.
St Anne’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg would be used for runners requiring hospitalisation before halfway, and St Augustine’s would be the referral hospital in Durban.
“None of the people working during the marathon gets paid, it is purely a voluntary service,” he said.
Along the route there would be 46 refreshment stations with water, fruit, energy drinks, biscuits and cooked potatoes. The stations would have about 5 000 volunteers.
A hospitality and information centre would cater for families and friends of runners who suffered medical issues during the race.
“They will be informed and transported to be by the bedside of their loved ones,” James said.
South Africa’s Charne Bosman is highly rated for the women’s race, but the Russian twins, Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva, are sure to have a say in matters.
In the men’s race, last year’s winner, Claude Moshiywa, is heavily favoured.
There are 1 498 international entrants, representing countries such as the UK, US, Netherlands, India, Brazil, Australia and neighbouring African states. There are entrants from 74 nations in total.
James said 70 percent of the race was made up of runners from KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, while 77 percent of runners were men and 23 percent women.
The average age for men was 44 and for women, 42.
James said of 21 090 entries, between 15 500 and 16 000 would start the race.
Nearly 50 000 people were expected at the finish venue and more than 250 000 on the route.