Mamabolo answers questions

Mamabolo answers questions

Norrie Williamson caught up with the 2012 Comrades Marathon champion on Thursday.


Norrie Williamson caught up with the 2012 Comrades Marathon champion on Thursday.

Comrades winner Ludwick Mamabola was born in Limpopo in April 1977 and changed from being a soccer player to a runner in late 1999.

He has a long pedigree of sport excellence with his father a quality sprinter and his grandfather, Titus Mamabola, one of the world's top marathon runners in his day.
In 2002 Mamabola ran and won his first marathon in Port Elizabeth and in 2003 he set the course record for the Old Mutual Om Die Dam 50km in two hours 49 minutes. The record still stands and this was the year he graduated with a B Comm.

Mamambolo ended second in Comrades in 2010. A year later on the up run he placed seventh and last year on Sunday 3 June Mamabola became the first South African to win Comrades since Sipho Ngomane in  2005

Only days later the euphoria of the win was shattered when he was informed that he had tested positive for MHA in his post-race urine sample. On Tuesday this week, after an 11-month period of suspension and hearings, Mamabola was cleared of the charges against him. This has paved the way for him to return to Comrades in his Bedfordview running club colours.

What does it mean to you to be back and cleared?

It means the world to me to know that my name has been cleared. I really want the sport to benefit from what has happened.

How do you feel about those people who say that you got off on a technicality and that you are a cheat and they will always see you are a cheat who was lucky?

I have maintained my innocence from the beginning and if I was lucky I think that my record of all my running achievements not only Comrades speak for themselves.

What is the lowest moment you faced in this 11-month struggle?

The beginning, being accused of cheating was probably the worst moment.  It was a huge blow, but I have faith  that whatever happened in real life there was a purpose but mostly as a professional athlete I kept on running. I never gave up on my schedule. I was always busy training. It was very hard training when I did not know when I would be able to get back, but I never felt that I would not be able to compete again. Losing my contract and sponsorship was very hard as that is my income and I have a family and two boys  of seven and ten to look after.

How did you hear about the allegations in June and where were you?

I only heard from a friend who sent me an SMS while I was at a Nike conference in Melrose arch. The official notification came the next day when I was called to the Atheltics South Africa office.

What was your reaction?

Complete shock and disbelief. I could not understand what was happening but I knew there had to be a reason for this.

What has been your family reaction to the news?

They never ever believed the news and have always supported me through this very testing time. To my wife her unbelievable support cannot be expressed in any words and to her I am forever thankful

Where were you on Tuesday afternoon when you heard the outcome of the case?

I was up in Limpopo and was so relieved and excited with the news. I immediately shared it with my wife and my pastor then phoned some friends before driving down to Kempton Park for a training session and to discuss things with my friends and supporters here (in Johannesburg).
Do you have any advice for South African runners based on this experience?

Yes, please make sure you know what the procedures are that take place and get to know as much as possible as to what is allowed or not allowed.

Do you think that enough is being done to educate people on the details and processes for anit-doping?  Is there something you can suggest?

No I don't think so, there is so much that is possible but I think a good place to start is with the clubs in SA.

If you had not had such a loyal support group and the benefits of Werkmans pro bono approach to the case would you have been able to handle this? 

No, to Werkmans I owe them so much and I am forever grateful for their assistance. They have done everything possible to support me. It was a privilege to be able to run from February (when there was a provisional uplifting of his suspension while the case continued) and they have followed through to the end.  

Are you considering suing SAIDS or others now that you have been cleared?

No. For me its not about the money its about clearing my name and the sport. I just want to be able to run and to compete to enjoy my running and earn a living as a professional runner. I hope that this has highlighted a problem and that people realise its a two-way street. I hope this (case) will make things better for athletes and that corrections will be made. 

Would you think that other athletes tested on the last Comrades day may benefit from this judgment which has highlighted a number of contraventions of international standards and anti-doping rules - were they to have the benefit of legal representation?

Absolutely, if nothing else it will teach athletes that they can't rely on other people  to educate them about the rules that apply. They have to do all that they can to take extra steps to make sure they don't suffer the same prejudice that I suffered.

Do you feel you can be ready for the 2013 Comrades given that you only returned to competition in February?

We have to always respect Comrades for what it is. I will do the best that I can and I am looking forward to it.

Do you have any races scheduled for before Comrades?

I go back to Limpopo tomorrow (Friday) to complete my Comrades preparation and will only come back closer to the race. There is a 10km race that I will probably use as a measure of my fitness prior to Comrades.

Do you have any celebrations planned now that you have been cleared of charges?

No. Right now and for the next four weeks my focus is Comrades. This is what I do and this is what I have been wanting to do and so that's first priority.

(File Photo:Gallo Images)

- Norrie Williamson and Andre Bloem

Join me on Twitter @SportswaveAndre

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