South African soccer was plunged into a doping crisis on Thursday after it was revealed that two more Premier Soccer League players have tested positive for a banned substance.

Only this week, Ajax Cape Town goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs and Golden Arrows striker Harry Milanzi both received six-month suspended sentences from the South African Football Association for differing doping offences.

With four positive tests now having taken place in an extremely short space of time, the chairperson of Safa's anti-doping committee, Raymond Hack, admitted yesterday that the matter "raises a note of concern".

While Hack was unable to reveal the names of the two latest players who have tested positive, or the type of substance involved, he said that the Premier Soccer League had been notified, and that the players now had 14 days in which to accept the finding, or to request a B sample.

Whatever they choose, it is very likely they will find themselves before a Safa DC, as B samples very rarely prove different from the initial test. "A lot of people think it will be different. But in fact the initial sample is just divided into two," added Hack.

Josephs's case is more one of administrative bungling from his club, Ajax Cape Town.

The Ajax goalkeeper, called up on Wednesday to the Bafana squad to face Australia this week, tested positive for Salbutamol, a banned stimulant.

Josephs has a known problem with asthma and Salbutamol, used for asthma treatment, is allowed provided you obtain an exemption certificate from the national doping body. However, Josephs's exemption certificate had expired, and his club had failed to apply to Safa for a new exemption.

Josephs pleaded guilty to the charge, picking up a R12 000 fine as well as his sentence. Milanzi, meanwhile, tested positive for marijuana, and fined R15 000 on top of his sentence.

Fifa, however, may have something to say on both sentences. Safa moved its doping regulations in line with Fifa's in November 2003, one of the main reason why Arthur Zwane's sentence was reduced on appeal, after he had tested positive for methyl-testosterone.

And, according to Fifa rules, marijuana, for one, carries a minimum six-month ban. Fifa's doping body are hardly likely to be happy with the suspended nature of the two sentences.

All recent tests have been carried out by the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport.

"They do four or eight tests on a weekend or in the week. One player from each team is tested," said Hack. "People have to be aware that they face the risk of being caught."

Whoever these two new players are, and whatever charges are brought against them, it is worrying that so many players are being caught. Now, perhaps, players will be challenged to change their lifestyle, or risk a serious ban from the game. - Soccer Writer