Comrades winner denies using stimulant
COMRADES Marathon winner Ludwick Mamabolo maintained his innocence yesterday following the shocking revelation that he had used a banned substance to win the gruelling 89km race.
South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids) CEO Khalid Galant confirmed that Mamabolo tested positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine.
Galant said stimulants like methylhexaneamine gave the athlete a heightened sense of awareness, energy and euphoria and could mask fatigue levels in a race such as the Comrades.
The substance is the same one that landed Springbok rugby stars Chiliboy Ralepelle and Bjorn Basson in trouble in 2010.
If found guilty, the 35-year-old could be stripped of his title, lose the R300000 prize money and face a sanction ranging from a warning up to a two-year ban from the sport.
"I didn't take any banned substances," Mamabolo said.
"The stuff that I use is what I have normally used throughout the years I have been running Comrades.
"I am confident that I will be found not guilty."
Saids will set a hearing date for an independent tribunal to preside over the charge against Mamabolo, wherein the athlete will be able to state his case, Galant said.
"Methylhexaneamine has been one of those ubiquitous substances that some athletes have been testing positive for over the last two years. It is starting to become [prevalent] in sports supplements and certain energy drinks."
Mamabolo, who finished the race in a time of 5:31:03, will have the option to have his B-sample tested to ascertain a confirmation of his A-sample result. "The B-sample is a 30ml sample of the original sample of the athlete. The sample is divided into A and B sample at the time of the test being performed.
"The B-sample is only opened at the request of the athlete. He may provide a witness to the opening of the B-sample to ensure that it has not been tampered with."
Mamabolo won the hearts of the nation when he became the first South African to win the ultra-marathon since Sipho Ngomane seven years ago after it had emerged that he had sacrificed three-months pay in order to train for the event.
He was paraded in Polokwane following his historic triumph earlier this month, with Limpopo premier Cassel Mathale even giving him something "to cover up for the money lost in the three months" Mamabolo was on unpaid leave.
However, he is now in danger of being the first Comrades winner to test positive for a banned drug since Charl Mattheus in 1992.
Mamabolo said he would prefer to reserve his comment as he had yet to be officially charged by the anti-doping organisation. "I haven't heard anything official, I haven't received a letter, it's just a rumour that is going around," he said.
"I don't have more to say, but I believe I have done nothing wrong."
However, Galant said the athlete had been informed yesterday morning through Athletics SA as per procedure, before the statement was released.
Fellow South African Bongmusa Mthembu, who finished second, could be declared the winner.