Sisters Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva finished first and second in the Comrades Marathon this year. Picture: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

Durban – The Comrades Marathon runners of 2013 have been declared drug-free, bar one, with the top 10 male and top 10 female finishers returning negative results on all doping control tests.

South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport chief executive Khalid Galant said on Sunday that 12th placed woman Helga Matthee had tested positive for betamethasone, a glucocorticosteroid, and would be charged before an independent tribunal on Thursday.

The South African runner applied for a retroactive therapeutic exemption for the banned substance, but there were no medical conditions detected to warrant its use.

“It is the responsibility of the athlete and sports medical practitioners to be completely aware of what is permitted and what is not,” said Galant.

After the 11-month battle between last year’s Comrades winner, Ludwick Mamabolo, and the institute, Galant was “very happy” the top runners had come through clean, and he attributed this, in part, to Mamabolo’s doping case.

“There was a greater awareness from the athletes’ side.”

Galant said, after Mamabolo was cleared of doping during last year’s ultra-marathon, on a “technicality”, the institute had put in place measures to ensure there was no wiggle room for runners if they tested positive for banned substances.

Mamabolo finished fourth in this year’s race.

There would be more attention on marathon running when it came to drug testing, as there was doping “activity” in the sport, Galant said.

The Mercury