Positive dope tests are hitting the headlines on an almost daily basis, with sprinter Justin Gatlin and Tour de France winner Floyd Landers the most notable examples of late.
Closer to home, South African athletics was rocked by an alarming number of drug busts earlier this year. And according to Athletics South Africa (ASA) not enough is being done to aid them in their efforts to eliminate the problem from the sport.
“Plenty of the athletes have revealed where they are getting the drugs but something seems not to be working,” said Linda Ferns, General Manager of ASA, earlier this year after road runner Gladys Lukhwareni revealed the name of a pharmacy in Pretoria where she had obtained a banned substance. “What is the Medicines Control Council doing? They need to sit up and take note but for some reason they have been very quiet,” added Ferns.
It seems nothing has changed since then.
“We notified the Medicines Control Council, correspondence was sent to them but we still haven’t had any response as yet,” explained ASA’s Marketing and Communications Manager Phiwe Tsholetsane. “There is nothing more we can do because it is a legal matter now. The only thing that we could do was report the matter to the them which we did.
“It is frustrating because it is our business to develop athletes. We want to see a solution because five athletes testing positive in one week is quite a shock. A lot of other sports would just sweep it under the carpet and deal with it internally but we want to promote being clean as athletes,” added Tsholetsane.
“We have people like Khotso (Mokoena), LJ (Van Zyl) and Mbulaeni (Mulaudzi) who are doing really well and we want to promote that and say, ‘look, these guys are clean and they can do it, you don’t need to take drugs’. We are trying to protect our squad who have a great chance of doing well at the next world championships and Olympics.
“As ASA we obviously ban athletes who test positive but if the Medicines Control Council don’t do anything, athletes think ‘What the heck is going on because nobody is doing anything about it.’”
Nick Bester, manager of the Harmony athletics club, which experienced a massive problem with drugs earlier this year said he had also not heard anything from the Medicines Control Council.
“It is out of our hands,” said Bester. “We have handed all the evidence over. We are an athletics club and that’s not our responsibility. But we haven’t heard anything back and as far as I know nothing has happened so far.”
Numerous attempts to contact the Registrar of the Medicines Control Council, Mandisa Hela, for comment on the progress of this case proved unsuccessful.
ASA, meanwhile continue in their efforts to keep the sport clean.
“I think the situation in athletics is generally better now,” said Tsholetsane. “We test the winners at all our national events and we are confident that we are doing everything in our power to deal with the problem. We just need the Medicines Control Council to do the same.” – Heartlines Features.
By Karien Jonckheere