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Sports minister got doping debacle wrong, say former Sascoc executives

David Isaacson Sports reporter
Nathi Mthethwa was mistaken in his account of the dispute between the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport and Bodybuilding SA, said a former Sascoc board member and the former acting CEO of the organisation.
Nathi Mthethwa was mistaken in his account of the dispute between the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport and Bodybuilding SA, said a former Sascoc board member and the former acting CEO of the organisation.
Image: Department of Sport

Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa gave an incorrect account of the dispute involving the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids), Bodybuilding SA and the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), according to two former senior Sascoc executives.

Mthethwa had said in a written reply to questions in parliament that Saids had fined the bodybuilding federation R300,000 after a high number of athletes had tested positive for drugs. “The matter was escalated to Sascoc in 2019. The then acting CEO refused to act against the federation,” Mthethwa said.

Kaya Majeke, who served on both the Bodybuilding SA and Sascoc executives at the time, hit back at the TimesLIVE article, saying he felt unfairly implicated and added that the minister had been “ill-advised on the issue”.

Bodybuilding SA had disputed “the legality of the fine ... on account of unlawful conduct on the part of a few of its members”, he added.

Ravi Govender, one of two acting CEOs at Sascoc during 2019, also weighed in, saying his office had not stalled on the issue and added that the matter had been referred to Sascoc’s judicial body and later handed over to the department of sport, arts and culture (DSAC).

Govender, who took over as acting CEO after Patience Shikwambana, said the process had started before he stepped into the role around August 2019.  

He said Shikwambana had already written to Bodybuilding SA, advising they would be fined — R150,000 for doping transgressions in 2017 and another R150,000 for further drug transgressions in 2018. She told the sports body it would be suspended for three months, he added.

Govender said Shikwambana’s letter to Bodybuilding SA had also stated that the suspension would be discussed at the Sascoc council meeting scheduled for June 8 2019.

The Sascoc board, however, decided its judicial body would deal with the matter. 

The Sascoc council was informed of the situation. Govender referred to minutes from the council meeting which stated: “The board is now engaging Saids on behalf of Bodybuilding SA who have a dispute with Saids. The president [Gideon Sam] noted that Sascoc is a signatory to Wada [the World Anti-Doping Agency].”

Govender said the chair of the judicial body recommended the matter be referred to DSAC, but Saids, at this point, had already raised the matter with the minister.

He said he wrote to the DSAC deputy director-general on March 1 2020 to inform her that the Sascoc board was concerned about the matter between Bodybuilding SA and Saids. “We are informed that Saids has brought this to the attention of your department and, in so doing, as well as the minister.

“Sascoc cannot interfere with the functioning of Saids, but at the same time, as its oversight role over its member, would like to ensure that this matter is resolved in line with due process,” he wrote in the letter to the DSAC official, Sumayya Khan.

Govender said he received a response from Khan, who explained that DSAC's legal services would look into the matter.

Govender was confident there was no case against him. “Any action contemplated against Bodybuilding SA was not mine to be made, but rather that of the Sascoc board and I had acted, at all material times, under the directive of the board.”

He pointed out that Sascoc president Barry Hendricks and vice-presidents Lwandile Simelane and Debbie Alexander had been part of the previous executive dealing with the matter, as well as board member Qondisa Ngwenya, a consultant for Sascoc at the time.

Majeke made a similar point. “[Bodybuilding SA] is also aware of a formal resolution taken by the Sascoc board not to give effect to the fine unilaterally imposed by Saids against [Bodybuilding SA] and even the president of Sascoc [Hendricks], who was party to the Sascoc resolution, clearly indicated in his manifesto when standing for election that he would ensure that federations are not punished for individual athletes' abuse unless the federation is complicit in the abuse.”

When asked for comment, Hendricks said: “We are dealing with the matter. We want to get the matter off the table [soon].”

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