Johannesburg - Daryl Impey lost millions of rands because he was in the right place at the wrong time. He was told on Thursday he has been absolved of the doping charge that threatened to derail the career of the first African to have worn the yellow jersey at the Tour de France.
Impey was informed in July he had tested positive for Probenecid at the South African Road Time Trial championships on February 6. On Thursday, a hearing held in Johannesburg found he had taken the banned diuretic, which is not performance enhancing but can be used as a masking agent, through a contaminated product bought at a pharmacist through no fault of his own.
“It’s just utter, utter relief that justice has been done,” said Impey on Thursday. “Everything that has happened, all the bad publicity, all the mud that has been thrown at my name, it’s never going to be rectified, but I knew I hadn’t doped and would never dope. We presented the hearing with hard facts, factual proof. This was no ‘maybe’ or ‘could have been’.”
The solid facts were the evidence of a pharmacist in Durban. Impey had gone early in the morning to buy empty gelatine capsules to put bicarbonate of soda inside them for the South African road race championships. Bicarbonate of soda helps buffer the effects of lactic acid. The pharmacist told him he didn’t have any capsules. Later, the pharmacist found some capsules and called Impey, who went in the afternoon to buy them. Shortly before the pharmacist served Impey, he had dispensed Probenecid to another customer. His hands had contaminated Impey’s capsules. At the hearing, till slips showing time and purchase from the pharmacy convinced the hearing Impey had not ingested the substance on purpose.
“When this news came out we were shocked and utterly devastated,” said Impey. “I’m glad to restore the faith people had in me and even for those who believed I was guilty. We found the source, the hearing found no fault, no negligence on my part. We gave them the facts. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or even the right place at the wrong time, almost cost me my entire career. Cycling is not a hobby for me. This puts bread and butter on the table for my family.”
Impey signed a clause with Orica Greenedge, his Australian-backed cycling team, that he would repay his salary should he be found guilty of doping. It is a standard clause in the team contracts. Impey had been due to ride in the Tour de France this year and, while he would not put a figure on how much the doping charge had cost him, it is estimated to be several million rands.
Impey and his lawyers are considering whether to take action against the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids) after they delayed the announcement of his positive test until June 23. Saids claimed the delay was due to the death of a lab technician, but at on Thursday’s hearing, were vague on a seven-week delay when the results were known but not announced. The Saids officials left directly after the hearing.
“The delay is inexcusable,” said Impey. “This is something that should have been handled quicker. Athlete’s rights are as important as anyone else’s. I have the right to have my hearing done quickly and expeditiously. It was hugely disappointing missing out on Tour de France, and the Vuelta. This could have been sorted out in May and April, I could have got on with my career.
“The amount of money I have lost is hard to quantify. It’s a huge loss of income. There have been massive repercussions for my family and me. My name has been dragged through the mud. We’ll think about things like what other action to take later. I want to get back to do my job. I know Saids have to do their job, and it is an important one. We co-operated with them. We had proper facts, hard facts, hard evidence. The delay by Saids meant we had to back five months, to retrace our steps. That’s not fair play in sport.”
Impey was left out of the SA team for the World Championships, but is hoping to be included. He will head to Canada to race with his team. He will do what he was born to do. He will ride his bike.