In doubt: Ludwick Mamabolo celebrates with his wife Lerato after winning the Comrades Marathon earlier this month, but now faces a possible two-year ban and being stripped of his title. Picture: Patrick Mtolo

Kevin Lancaster

Ludwick Mamabolo, winner of the 2012 Comrades Marathon, has tested positive for a banned substance and could have his title stripped away.

Khalid Galant, CEO of the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS), confirmed yesterday that tests run on the sample Mamabolo provided after the race found traces of methylhexaneamine. This banned stimulant provides athletes with energy, can mask fatigue and provides a heightened sense of awareness.

The Limpopo runner, who was part of the Mr Price Sport KZN team, was the first South African to win the men’s race in seven years. Now he faces a two-year ban from running, and having his gold medal and R300 000 in prize money retracted.

After this year’s race, SAIDS conducted 20 dope tests, on the top 10 male and female runners, with two results coming back positive.

One was a sample with raised levels of testosterone, which will undergo further testing in Germany to establish the cause of the result. The other was Mamabolo’s. His sample was confirmed to contain methylhexaneamine after tests were conducted at the SA Doping Control Laboratory at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein.

Galant said procedure now dictated that Mamabolo had the right to request his B-sample be tested (the post-race sample is divided into equal halves and sealed), and if that proved positive, he would face an independent tribunal.

“The tribunal is normally made up of a legal person, a sports medicine practitioner and a sports management professional,” said Galant.

The date for the hearing is likely to be decided next week.

According to Galant, both Mamabolo and Athletics South Africa, who were unable to comment on the matter pending the final outcome, were notified yesterday morning of the positive result.

“If found guilty, he could be banned for two years,” he said, adding that Mamabolo “was innocent until proven otherwise”, and they would wait until the final results were in before determining a possible punishment.

Johan van Staden, the Comrades Marathon Association race director, said that if Mamabolo was found guilty by SAIDS, he would automatically be stripped of his title.

“As soon as we have the results, we will act on that,” he said.

This would see Bongumusa Mthembu, another South African, being promoted to first place.

With regard to the prize money and the gold medal, it was protocol to withhold both until all drug test results had been cleared.

“We only pay the prize money and hand over the medal after they have been cleared (by SAIDS),” said Van Staden, noting that Mamabolo had not received either yet.