He may be suspended for two years.
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Ludwick Mamabolo, the first South African winner of the Comrades ultramarathon in seven years, has returned a positive test for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine and could face a ban of two years.
In a second shock to hit the world’s largest ultramarathon yesterday, it was announced that the sample produced by another of the ten gold medal winners showed an elevated level of testosterone. The name of this runner was not announced, but the sample was sent to the doping control laboratory in Cologne, Germany, for further tests.
It is only the second time in the history of the Comrades that the winner produced a positive test for a banned substance. In 1992 Charl Mattheus was stripped of his title when he failed a drugs test. Jetman Msutu then became the champion. Mattheus returned from his ban to win the Comrades in 1997.
Two years ago Sergio Motsoeneng lost his third place after testing positive for Norandrosterone and was banned for two years. In a strange twist of fate, the runner who finished immediately in front of him was Mamabolo and the runner behind him was Bongmusa Mthembu, who will now be declared Comrades champion if Mamabolo’s “B” sample also returns a positive result.
Mamabolo, the grandson of Titus Mamabolo, one of South Africa’s pioneer black runners after the sport was opened to all races in 1971, won the Comrades – a “down” run this year – in 5:31:03 on June 3. His winning margin of 1 min 39 sec over Mthembu was the smallest in the race since 2001. Mamabolo was seventh last year.
The prize money for first place was R300,000 and Mamabolo also earned a R150,000 incentive as the first South African (a total of USD 55,000.)
The ten male and ten female gold medalists were all tested after the race.
Khalid Galant, CEO of the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport (SAIDS), said stimulants such as methylhexaneamine gave athletes a heightened sense of awareness, energy and euphoria, and could mask a runner’s fatigue levels in a long and demanding race such as the Comrades.
Galant said Mamabolo can now have his “B” sample tested. A hearing date will be set for an independent tribunal to hear the case against Mamabolo, said Galant. He added that SAIDS also tested for EPO at the Comrades, but that all tests were negative.
He said the results of the sample sent to Germany will be available in about four weeks.
If Mamabolo is disqualified, all the runners behind him will move up one position and the tenth gold medal will go to 2003 winner Fusi Nhlapo. If another of the gold medalists is disqualified, twelfth-placed Godfrey Sesenyamotse will be tenth and also receive a gold medal.