Boxers call for pre-fight HIV tests

2012-10-20 16:30

BSA medical examination ‘loopholes’

When they step into the ring, local boxers run a huge risk of being infected by blood-borne viruses.

It’s par for the course for any boxer to sustain cuts and bleeding while fighting.

Although it is compulsory for referees to wear latex gloves during fights to avoid direct contact, what about the safety of the boxers slugging it out in the ring?

This week, Boxing South Africa (BSA) chief executive Moffat Qithi conceded that “there could be loopholes” in the organisation’s procedure when it comes to boxers’ medical examinations.

According to Qithi, the laws governing the sport stipulate that boxers go through HIV tests 30 days prior to taking part in any fight.

But, according to a former BSA medical practitioner and several fighters, this isn’t the case in practice.

They all said boxers supply their HIV test results to BSA only once a year when renewing their licences.

Dr Mzwakhe Qobose, who used to be BSA’s doctor, believes that boxers are running a big a risk of contracting HIV and other blood-related infections every time they step into the ring.

Qobose said: “There is a possibility of them getting infected but it also depends on many other factors.”

Even if BSA laws, as cited by Qithi, are adhered to, the risk of infection remains high.

Qobose pointed out that 30 days wouldn’t make any difference because an infected boxer may be in the window period, and still runs the risk of infecting his opponent.

Boxers are concerned about submitting only one HIV test a year.

They feel BSA is “gambling” with their lives.

World Boxing Federation super featherweight champion Malcolm “The Stone” Klassen lambasted BSA for not prioritising boxers’ health.

He said: “I’ve got a big problem with this because no one knows who sleeps with who and it is a big gamble with our lives.”

Klassen told City Press that HIV tests must be conducted more often or “at least twice every year”. This, he said, because “not all of us lead clean lifestyles”.

Another boxer, Thabiso “The Rock” Mchunu, concurred with Klassen, pointing out that although he has “never fought against a bleeding opponent” in his 12 contests in professional boxing, “who knows what my future fights hold in store for me?”

Super bantamweight fighter Thabo Sonjica had a piece of advice for BSA.

He said: “They must hire oogqirha (medical practitioners) to conduct all necessary medical examinations when we go for the weigh-in before our fights.”

During pre-fight weigh-in sessions, boxers are tested for doping but not for HIV.

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