Comrades winner likely to be dragged down by confusion
Ludwick Mamabolo might not be the "drug cheat" that some believe him to be. There is a chance that the Comrades Marathon winner is the victim of what has become a terrible grey area in drugs.
Performance-enhancing drugs, masking agents, dietary supplements and the like have complicated an issue that once seemed clear-cut.
Take for example the drug methylhexaneamine, for which Mamabolo tested positive after he won the Comrades early this month.
Ross Tucker, one of this country's leading sports scientists, says there is no evidence that methylhexaneamine improves athletic performance. And when three of the country's top rugby players were tested positive for it they were suspended for only three months - a surprisingly light sentence for a drugs offence.
The problem with methylhexaneamine is that it apparently often pops up as a contaminant in supplements. This makes the issue of this particular drug more complicated because some Comrades runners who were taking the same supplements have not tested positive.
Of course, athletes need to be vigilant about what they drink or eat, but the problem with the legislation governing drug-taking in sport is that it assumes guilt once a positive test has been made.
Khalid Galant, the chief executive of the SA Institute for Drug-free Sport, said that, to be banned, a substance would have to enhance performance, pose a danger to the athlete or affront the spirit of sport.
Now it is up to Mamabolo to prove his innocence - which is unlikely. He is awaiting the outcome of a test on his B sample, which is 99% certain to confirm the analysis of the A sample.
Then his fate will be in the hands of the sports and drugs authorities.
He has the precedent of the rugby players on his side. We hope he will get a sympathetic hearing and be let off with a warning. That would be fair.