No room for drug cheats in SA

2012-07-14 19:42

South Africa is taking a drug-free team to the Olympic Games.

This is the assurance given by the team’s chief medical officer Dr Kevin Subban ahead of Team SA’s departure for London next week.

In recent days, Australia has banned its athletes from taking strong sedative tablets while China ordered its team members to steer clear of pork, lamb and beef – to minimise the risk of accidental doping from clenbuterol-tainted meat.

Similarly, Subban told City Press that the Team SA medical staff will apply stringent control over what South African athletes ingest while on duty in London.

He said the 115-member team was well-versed on the ethics of doping and the precautions that modern athletes must take ahead of the quadrennial event that kicks off in London in two weeks’ time.

“With the help of Saids (South African Institute for Drug Free Sport) we have educated our athletes in this regard and provided them with a handbook,” said the 51-year-old sports physician from the Prime Human Performance Institute in Durban.

“We advise our athletes about what to eat and emphasise they should only eat the food provided in the athletes’ village as we have been assured by Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) that all their food is safe.”

Saids chief executive Dr Shuaib Manjra said every Team SA athlete would have been tested by the time they reach the athletes’ village in London.

Said Manjra: “We had one-on-one sessions with the athletes who were on the Sascoc (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) opex (operation excellence) programme to file their whereabouts data. Part of the education in the handbook is the anti-doping procedure and list of prohibited substances.”

With the long flying hours ahead, Subban said: “We prescribe sleeping tablets as one of the ways to overcome jet lag. However, I don’t anticipate this to be a problem in London as we are almost in the same time zone and we are flying from south to north.

“Sedatives and, in particular, sleeping tablets are highly addictive – as with the case of Grant Hackett, the Australian swimmer. We advise control of its use by our athletes. We dispense one to two tablets only and don’t advise them to take more.”

A gold winner in the 1 500m freestyle at the Sydney and Athens Games, Hackett said he had become reliant on sedatives to battle insomnia.

Dr Subban worked with the South African teams at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing (China), the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia, the All Africa Games in Nigeria (2011) and Algeria (2007), the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games in Australia and the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.

“In London we have an excellent team of two other sports physicians, Dr Phatho Cele from the High Performance Centre in Pretoria and Dr Louis Holtzhausen (University of Free State) and chief physiotherapist Bafana Sihlali (University of Pretoria).

“There are eight other physiotherapists from around the country with knowledge and experience.”

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