David Gatebe winner of the 2016 Comrades Marathon Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG - Comrades Marathon champion David Gatebe and his TOMTOM teammates are giving next weekend’s Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon a miss for fear their drinks might get spiked with banned substances.

“Only late on Tuesday night did the Two Oceans organisers agree to our request to have specific tables put out for teams at water points,” said Gatebe’s trainer John Hamlett. 

“But that is too little too late because we had long decided we won’t risk our runners getting spiked, not with Comrades coming up. Drinking water en route the race is very risky business for the elite athletes because someone or even the opposition could easily add something to the bottle and create a positive test.

“And all we were asking for was to have access to the routes and the tables and they were not budging. There is no bad blood between us and the organisers of the race though.”

But race organisers have rubbished Hamlett’s claims and fears as untrue.

“His allegations of spiking are totally unfounded. We spoke to (Mr) Hamlett and he confirmed that the reason he is not bringing any athletes is because they are focusing on Comrades,” said Two Oceans Elite Athletes Co-ordinator Sue Ullyett. “He said as Comrades is too close to Two Oceans this year, they will not have enough time to recover.”

Ullyet added: “We have plenty of refreshment stations on the route and we’re providing additional tables for them at the team managers' request. This is all in line with IAAF and international standards and processes used at events around the world.”

Hamlett, though, seems to feel his athletes were not given the treatment their elite status deserves. 

“As a team we felt we should rather focus on events that give us access and make life easy. So, don't get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against Two Oceans, because it is a great race. It is just that while running in SA is probably far ahead of the rest of the world, we are still treating our athletes like they are amateurs.”

Gatebe and his teammates, among them former Comrades champions Fusi Nhlapo as well as the Kelehe brothers, Andrew and Gift, will be participating at the Loskop Marathon on April 22.

“The Loskop guys have given us access to the route and they have treated us like the elites we are. So we will be running that race as our final preparation race for Comrades.”

Hamlett’s athletes are in camp in Dullstroom until Comrades in June.

The Star