MY WORD ON SUNDAY: BNSC should set up anti-doping unit, urgently

SHARE   |   Monday, 11 January 2016   |   By Mpho Dibeela

The recent reported cases of doping by some of Botswana rugby players should be a serious source of serious concern for all local sports lovers. It hit like a thundering bolt from nowhere. It came as another national humiliation, casting further doubt on the real value of our top athletes. We were already coming to terms with the fact that 400m sprint queen Amantle Montsho could have made a genuine mistake in her doping case and that now almost at the end of her suspension – she has learnt her lesson. Rugby doping case tells of a different story. As a nation we need to do much more. An all-out war must be declared on drugs in sport. The Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) must with immediate effect undertake an elaborate programme that effectively fights performance enhancing drugs. Those on national duty must with immediate effect be made to sign an affidavit of fitness and be tested locally before going out to ensure that indeed they do not earn places in their teams through use of drugs. Paying lip service to this scourge won’t take us anywhere.

The leadership of Botswana Rugby Union (BRU) also appears to be huffing and puffing – they have failed to show their heads and demonstrate to the nation that this is a matter they are dealing with seriously. One would expect to have seen them addressing a media conference or issuing a press statement at the least to announce the unfortunate doping of their athletes. Beyond that they need to assure the nation that they are taking all necessary steps to resolve this matter and ensure that they have or are putting up a programme to ensure their code does not have a similar development. It is in times of difficulty that true leaders show their mettle. I call on BRU President to stand up and assure the nation that this was an isolated case and that they are up to the task of ensuring that there are no repeated cases. He has to demonstrate that BRU has a programme in place of educating its athletes of doping dangers and that there are penalties meted out to offenders.

It is disturbing that the concerned athletes reportedly failed to meet the deadline by which they should have responded for their results. The BNSC should take an uncompromising position against sport codes that do not adhere to strict anti-doping policies and practices. It should set up an office for anti-doping and then man and equip with qualified personnel that will go all out to hunt down drug cheats in our sport. The unit should primarily have an education arm and an investigation arm to hunt down those that offend. Unless drastic action is taken the image of the country is at stake. The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) will have every reason to downgrade the country into those whose athletes require constant surveillance and testing. As a nation we will be reduced to the laughing stock of others – our athletes’ worth diminished. Any sense of pride for those winning fairly will be reduced.

They will first have to wait to be cleared that theirs was not a deceitful victory. It will be tragedy to question every good performance. Soon on the basis of this growing scourge even our Nijel Amos will face more than usual tests – and this will be destructing. However assuming that this development at rugby could have been out of a genuine mistake, we wish to call on all local athletes to take extra care of what they eat and drink before and during major competitions. We need to re-educate ourselves on the substances to consume and those to avoid as athletes. We need to restore trust in our genuine abilities as athletes. Cheating our way to the medal podium will not take our careers and sport anywhere.