Luvo Manyonga banned for four years and ordered to pay R20,000

David Isaacson Sports reporter
Luvo Manyonga of South Africa
Luvo Manyonga of South Africa
Image: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Troubled long-jump maestro Luvo Manyonga has been banned for four years for a doping violation that in the end he didn’t even try to contest.

Neither he nor his Port Elizabeth-based attorney, Brendan Weldrick, responded to various notices informing them of the hearing set for May 28, wrote the arbitrator, who made his ruling based on papers submitted.

His ruling was released on Friday.

Manyonga, the 2017 world champion and 2016 Olympic silver medallist who has struggled with drug addiction for the better part of 10 years, was accused of missing an out-of-competition drug test on November 26, 2019, and then two filing failures, on April 1, 2020 and October 1, 2020, where he failed to properly submit his whereabouts for upcoming months.

Manyonga’s sister claimed late last year that her brother had fallen off the wagon, a charge he denied, though he admitted he hadn’t trained for the whole of 2020.

The 30-year-old was given the maximum ban of four years because of his 18-month suspension for testing positive for crystal meth in 2012, and also for failing to offer any argument in mitigation of sentence.

He might have been able to shorten the ban to three-and-a-half years. 

“The athlete has not in fact co-operated with this hearing process and has declined several opportunities to attend the hearing scheduled for [May 28],” wrote the London-based arbitrator,  William Norris QC.

The athlete, who stretched the SA long-jump record to 8.65m, was initially charged in December last year, though it was revised in January.

He was automatically suspended from competition on December 23, though it became public knowledge only in January this year.

Manyonga’s previous legal representative, the firm Lipman Karas, contested the charge in writing in early March, though that was rebutted by the Athletics Integrity Unit.

In early May Lipman Karas informed Norris they no longer represented the athlete “because they had been unable to obtain instructions”. “They confirmed, nevertheless, that the athletes’ coach was ‘aware of the deadlines in this matter ... ”

Manyonga failed to submit his response to World Athletics’ brief by May 7. He was also asked if he needed further assistance in obtaining pro bono representation.

But it transpired the athlete had “new legal representation and, indeed, may have had such representation since January”.

“Weldrick was copied into correspondence and, in particular, into an exchange on May 20 in which the AIU had proposed the athlete should be afforded the opportunity to have a short and final extension to the deadline by which he would file his answer in the matter.”

But by May 26 there had been no response despite “having made every reasonable effort communicate with him and his legal representative”.

Two further efforts to communicate with them were ignored, Norris wrote, explaining his decision was based on the papers submitted to him.

Norris also awarded 1,000 pounds (nearly R20,000) to be paid by Manyonga, and that was low.

“World Athletics seeks a contribution to its costs. Since the AIU has necessarily had to prepare to present a case where the charges were to be contested, there is no good reason why I should not make an award.

“Since I assume that the athlete’s financial circumstances are not good, I will only make an award in respect of what will only be a proportion of those costs in the sum of 1,000 pounds.

“If World Athletics wishes to submit that I should award a greater (or lesser) sum, then it may have liberty to apply for a review of that part of this order, within 14 days of its receipt.”

Manyonga has 30 days to appeal against the ruling at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland.

Failing that he will be eligible to return to competition only on December 23, 2024.

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