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Court Clears South African Marathoner Gert Thys

  • By Duncan Larkin
  • Published Jan. 13, 2012
  • Updated Jan. 13, 2012 at 9:12 AM UTC
Gert Thys has been cleared of doping charges. Photo: IAAF

He won his appeal.

Gert Thys has been cleared of doping charges. Photo: IAAF

Written by: Riel Hauman

(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

It took almost six years of legal wrangling, but South African marathon record holder Gert Thys has at last cleared his name after having tested positive for a prohibited substance at the Seoul International Marathon on March 12, 2006.

In a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the decision by Athletics South Africa (ASA) in December 2008 to ban Thys from 25 April 2006 to 11 December 2008 (a period of more than two years and seven months) was set aside. That decision was taken after numerous adjournments and postponements of the ASA arbitration panel hearing.

Thys appealed to CAS against this decision and his appeal was upheld. ASA then appealed to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, which annulled the CAS ruling and informed Thys that he had to appeal to the South African Insititue for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS).  Because SAIDS did not act on Thys’s appeal, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) became involved in the case on the athlete’s behalf. ASA then informed CAS in October 2011 that it “has experienced a financial crisis since being placed under administration by the South African Sports Commission and Olympic Committee in 2009. As such it is unable to afford legal representation with this matter.” ASA added it would “abide by the decision of the Court”.

Thys’ appeal to have his banning set aside was based on the fact that the WADA International Standard for Laboratories was violated because his “A” and “B” samples, both of which showed the presence of the prohibited substance 19-norandrosterone, were tested by the same analyst, Mr Young Dae Cho of the Korea Insititute of Science and Technology in Seoul, instead of, as the rules require, by two different analysts. Thys submitted that this “is not a technical violation, but rather a serious breach” of the standard and that ASA could not prove that the violation “did not undermine the validity of the adverse analytical finding”.

CAS ruled that the positive finding of the presence of a prohibited substance in Thys’s samples was not in dispute, but that ASA and SAIDS “have not presented anything that could lead [CAS] to state that they have met their burden of proof” that noncompliance with the testing standard did not undermine the validity of the finding. Therefore the ASA decision of Decembver 2008 was set aside and SAIDS was ordered to pay Thys ten thousand Swiss Francs as contribution towards his legal fees.

Thys won the Seoul Marathon for the third time in four years in 2006, clocking 2:10:40. This time will now again be regarded as valid. The previous month he had also won the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in 2:09:45. He set the still standing South African record of 2:06:33 in Tokyo in 1999, then a Japanese all-comers record.

During his period of ineligibility Thys completed the mandatory four out-of-competition tests and all results were negative.

Since his reinstatement Thys, who was the fourth athlete to break 2:07:00 for the marathon, won the Cape Town Marathon in September 2010 in 2:22:12 and was second in the Beijing International Marathon the next month in 2:15:56. Last year he failed to finish the Old Mutual Two Oceans ultramarathon, his first race farther than a marathon, as well as the Cape Town Marathon.

This past weekend, in his first race since turning 40, he set a new SA veterans (masters) record of 2:41:40 for 30 km in the Ocean Basket Bay to Bay race.

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Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin is the news editor at Competitor.com and a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for over five years. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first running book, RUN SIMPLE, was released last July.

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