It is with much regret that I need to inform you that one of our athletes, Professor Ncube, failed a routine drug test after his second place at Edenvale Marathon earlier this year. SAIDS (SA Institute for Drug Free Sport) is still collecting evidence and will complete their investigation and make a decision in due course. Given the evidence so far, and through Professor’s co-operation, they have allowed him to compete in Comrades 2019. There is always bound to be speculation after these incidents so we would like to share with you what we know so far so that the speculation doesn’t become misguided.
Professor has been suffering from chronic back pain for the past 3 years which flares up during heavy training. He was offered some advice from a running friend at his previous club to take a combination of Voltaren and Prednisone. This running friend was not a competitive athlete or a medical practitioner and I believe that her advice was meant with the best intentions. At the time of the testing, directly after the race, the athletes are given a form in which they need to volunteer all supplements and medications that they have taken in the weeks before. Professor’s submission included both these medications as well as many other supplements which were taken on the recommendation of Mark Wolff from 32GI.
Prednisone is a prescription drug which treats, among other things, arthritis and inflammation, but also has many negative side effects and will, in large enough doses, give runners an increased aerobic capacity. For this reason, it is on SAIDS banned list. Professor went to his local pharmacy in Hillbrow 3km from his home and purchased both the Voltaren (generic) and Prednisone over the counter in small bags for R10 each. Regrettably, he does not have medical aid and has a limited personal budget from which he must deal with these problems.
We are very conscious that most athletes who are found guilty of doping, at least initially, profess innocence and use ignorance as their defence. I am personally trying to keep an open mind until the completion of the SAIDS investigation but I am giving Professor the benefit of my unconditional support until that process is complete. From the evidence so far, I have little reason to doubt his ignorance for the following reasons:
Professor has always conducted himself with the utmost integrity, selflessness and honesty in all the times that I have needed to deal with him.
He bought the medication from a local pharmacy and didn’t go out of his way to find one that would suspiciously offer banned medication.
He bought it over the counter without a prescription and has freely, and without hesitation, offered the name of the pharmacy to SAIDS.
He disclosed the Prednisone at the time of testing and the testing official didn’t openly recognise it as a banned substance.
Although Professor came second in this race, it was far from his best performance and those who watched the race reported that he looked like he was in distress. This would confirm his account that he was suffering from back pain.
He has competed in very few races in which he can profit from winning money. He sacrifices this to compete in Comrades where he will, as an amateur athlete, have very little chance of winning any prize money. If he was motivated by cash or glory, he would be racing smaller races every second week.
Once they have completed their investigation, the case will be presented to the SAIDS committee on Professors behalf. Professor has agreed that he is not likely to challenge any recommendation and he is likely to spend some time banned from competing. He is possibly going to miss next years Comrades Marathon. As much as the punishment may seem harsh for an innocent mistake from an amateur athlete, we agree that SAIDS cannot afford to be soft on drug use in sport and we will support the outcome. They have been very helpful and accommodating towards us so far.
Bedfordview reputation is in no way affected by these circumstances and we intend to continue helping disadvantaged local athletes for as long as we feel it is uplifting the quality of their lives. Once the investigation is complete, Professor will need to face a panel from our club to decide on the appropriate action by the club. The formation of the panel could be appointed by the clubs committee. As managers of the performance squad, Patrick and I feel that we should be excluded from this panel. We are too close to the athletes and also feel responsible for not educating and protecting our athletes more.
Armed with our newfound knowledge and resources, we will be bringing SAIDS training to the club so that all interested members can learn from this regrettable incident. Any athlete can be randomly tested, but it is prize winners that are routinely tested – including those who win their age groups. We will hope that all members make use of the opportunity and avoid the embarrassment and suffering that Professor will need to endure.
I must extend my thanks to Patrick Devine for his selfless help with this matter and all those related to the performance squad.
Chairman Bedfordview Athletics