Home » Governance » Heed President’s Wise Counsel On Drugs [editorial]

PRESIDENT Mugabe on Sunday urged the region’s rising sportsmen and women to abstain from taking drugs and other intoxicating substances and to respect the Anti-Doping Code in sport.

The President, who was officially opening the sixth edition of the African Union Sports Council Region 5 Under-20 Youth Games in Bulawayo, warned some of Southern Africa’s rising teenage athletes of the dangers of using steroids and turning themselves into cheats.

An adherence to safe and clean sports ethics, as enshrined in the Anti-Doping Code, was a must, President Mugabe said, and anything to the contrary would be a violation of the values of fairness that sport thrives on to sell itself to the fans who believe in it.

The President’s call comes at a time when the use of prohibited drugs by athletes in the region has been on the increase, damaging the integrity of sport, as many of them try to take the easier, but dangerous, route to cheat their way to success.

South Africans were shocked recently to learn that Kaizer Chiefs forward, Josta Dladla, one of the stars of their Premiership, had failed a drug test after testing positive for using methylhexaneamine, a drug stimulant, which earned him a four-month ban from the game. Dladla was tested at a Premier Soccer League match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, the biggest football game in the country’s top-flight league, on October 26, 2013.

The footballer described his ordeal as the worst part of his life and, in an interview with a newspaper, said he did not know he managed to live through the nightmare and gain the strength to return to play for Chiefs when his ban expired. He is not alone, though, as Cape Town Marathon winner Lindhikaya Mthangayi tested positive for a prohibited anabolic steroid, Methandienone, the second time that he had failed a drugs test after being caught on the wrong side in 2009 for using the stimulant, methylhexaneamine, and received a six-month ban.

Another athlete, Ludwick Mamabolo, who made headlines across South Africa after winning the 2012 Comrades Marathon, was also caught offside when he tested positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine. Mamabolo, hailed as a national hero when he became the first South African to win the Comrades Marathon in seven years, fell from grace after he tested positive to the banned stimulant and was not given his gold medal price and R300 000 winners’ cheque.

However, 11 months after the race, Mamabolo was honoured with his winners’ cheque and gold medal after an inquiry committee found multiple irregularities in the way the testing process was conducted although, in the eyes of some, this was dismissed as a repair job by South African authorities hurt by the damage inflicted by the scandal.

Mamabolo claimed, in his defence, that many South African athletes lacked the required education on what they should take, or not take, in terms of substances.

Here at home we have had the case of Devon Chafa, the Zimbabwe international football star, whose career flew into turbulence when he failed a drugs test last year while playing for the senior national team in a World Cup qualifier against Egypt.

Chafa was being hailed as one of the rising stars of Zimbabwean football, at that time, and his agent claims that there was an offer from a foreign team on the table when his career was stalled by the six-month ban, from all football activities, which was imposed by Fifa.

The Dynamos midfielder only returned to football in March this year, but he has been a pale shadow of the dominant player that he was before his ban, as he still battles to clear the psychological scars inflicted by being called a drug cheat, and even struggled to hold his place in the Glamour Boys line-up.

But the most damaging doping scandal here involved our young rugby players and former Zimbabwe Under-20 rugby star, Shane Joubert, was this year banned for six years by the International Rugby Board for flouting their Anti-Doping Regulations.

It’s the biggest ban ever handed on a Zimbabwean athlete, on doping charges, after Joubert, who was part of the Zimbabwe Under-20 side that finished seventh at the Junior Rugby World Cup in the United States in 2012, was charged in relation to trafficking or attempted trafficking, administration or attempted administration, use or attempted use and possession of prohibited substances.

Joubert provided a statement to the IRB admitting obtaining and using steroids and supplying them to his teammates Dylan Coetzee and Simbarashe Chirara who were handed two year bans with Coetzee’s ban being reduced by six months under the provisions of the IRB.

Against this grim background, it is important that our athletes, and those in the region, embrace the message from President Mugabe that they are not only putting their careers on the line, by using drugs, but they are also damaging the integrity of sport.

The President’s message could not have been targeted to a better grouping, given that we have some of the finest teenage athletes from the region in Bulawayo right now competing in the Region 5 Youth Games, and if we can impress on this group, that it doesn’t pay to use drugs, then we would have secured the future of our sport.

Obviously, the decision, ultimately, lies with each athlete but as Ben Johnson showed us all those years back, it doesn’t pay to try and cheat your way to glory and this world has no room for cheats who try to beat the system.

Source : The Herald