ASA trips on hurdles

2010-04-18 11:49

AS things continue to fall apart at Athletics South Africa (ASA), administrator Ray Mali has admitted that his lack of knowledge of the sport has been his shortcoming.

Brought in as a messiah by South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) president Gideon Sam in November amid the Caster Semenya saga, Mali has failed to bring stability to the ­organisation.

Instead, he has faced a barrage of criticism from board members, some of whom have since resigned, as well as a lobby group calling themselves “Concerned Athletes”.

They have threatened to forward their grievances to the sports portfolio committee.

This week, Mali told City Press: “I don’t deny the fact that I am not an athletics man. I am following on the role of being an administrator in athletics. However, I am a sportsperson and I have brought in people where I am lacking.”

Top marathon runner Hendrick Ramaala was the latest to resign last week, following Western Province president James Evans who quit in January.

“I have had enough of the current administration of ASA. It is unfortunate that I had to leave because we are not making any impact as board members,” said Ramaala.

He also complained that “people are obsessed with former ASA president Leonard Chuene”.

Chuene was suspended by Sascoc and the ASA board in November for their handling of the Semenya affair, among other things.

Molatelo Malehopo, who was ASA general manager, and Chuene’s personal assistant Humile Bogatsu have been suspended with full pay.

Further accusations of maladministration have been levelled against Chuene and the board, but they are still to appear before a ­disciplinary body.

This is another bone of contention with some members of the interim board and the concerned athletes complaining that the process was taking too long.

However, Mali says Ramaala of all people – because of his legal background (he holds a law degree) – should know better that no stone should be left unturned before Chuene and company are brought to book.

Another issue has been the Semenya case. The athlete still has to run a race since winning a gold medal in the 800m in Berlin last August.

Despite announcing that she will be back on the track on June 24 in Zaragoza, Spain, Semenya was this week excluded from a list of 57 athletes to represent South Africa at the African Athletics Championships in Kenya in July.

This is despite her lawyers threatening to sue ASA if they did not allow her to compete as she was “entitled to participate” because she has not been suspended.

Mali has been accused of handling the matter single-handedly with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) while keeping board members in the dark.

Despite all this, Mali this week assured City Press that what he was faced with now was nothing compared to “when I dealt with more serious challenges from my time with the ICC”.

“There is no animosity as far as I understand. It is just that there were differences of opinion.”

He said all the provinces had shown support except for Western Province through Evans.

Responding to the accusations over the handling of the Chuene issue, Mali said: “Some people will feel we’re dragging our feet but we are guided by the investigations and forensics.”

As for money owed to athletes, Mali said the next batch of payments was due on April 19 (tomorrow).

The “Concerned Athletes” who met in Germiston last week, objected to the decision taken at the general assembly on March 27 to allow the interim board to continue running the federation indefinitely.

This was endorsed by the IAAF.

Mali responded: “I don’t want to be in athletics forever; eventually we have to make way for elected people to carry on. That can only happen when we have dealt with all the disciplinary processes of the suspended board.”

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