Mamabolo wasn’t after money

2013-05-05 14:00

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Lawyer: comrades king’s doping case was about proving innocence

A legal case the size of Ludwick Mamabolo’s could have cost any client seeking legal representation close to R3?million.

This is according to Werksmans Attorneys, the law firm that represented last year’s Comrades Marathon winner in his drawn-out doping case.

Mamabolo was this week cleared of any wrongdoing by a disciplinary committee of the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sports (SAIDS) following a marathon legal battle with the anti-doping body that lasted for nearly 11 months.

The Joburg-based law firm represented Mamabolo, pro bono.

“Had fees been raised in this matter, our records reflect that Werksmans’ fees to date would have aggregated to approximately R1.28 million – that’s a combined 685 hours at various rates,” Werksmans director Trevor Boswell told City Press this week.

He said the amount excludes costs of counsel, experts, other disbursements and VAT.

The law firm – which specialises in corporate and commercial law services – had roped in international experts whose fees would have been anywhere between R500 000 and R1 million, according to Boswell.

The group included Ryan Kohler, a sport and exercise medicine physician from Australia; Dr Laurent Rivier, a scientist from the Switzerland doping laboratory; as well as professor Marc Blockman, an expert in the science of pharmacology based in Cape Town.

This was in addition to Werksmans’ attorneys led by Boswell, Louise Bick, David Hertz and Greg Nott.

Nott will be remembered for his previous successes in the cases of Caster Semenya’s sex-verification row in 2009 and Oscar Pistorius’ 2008 landmark victory, which allowed the now-disgraced Paralympian champion to compete against able-bodied athletes in international track championships.

Boswell insisted that Mamabolo’s case was not about financial gain through the courts.

He said: “It has been about proving his (Mamabolo’s) innocence and maintaining his integrity, which has been achieved.”

Mamabolo had maintained his innocence even when SAIDS announced a few days after he won the Comrades that he had tested positive for methylhexaneamine, a stimulant on the World Anti-Doping Agency Code’s prohibited list.

“Ludwick was the easiest client to represent. We knew from the start that he was the victim of something that terribly went wrong.

“We sent every single medication in his house, including his tea from the (ZCC) church, to get tested at the same laboratory. The testing process was fatally flawed and the urine samples were probably not his.”

As for the lessons learnt from thecase, Boswell said: “As much as athletes are required to observe and comply with anti-doping rules and regulations, so too are the authorities that implement them.

It is also important for (SAIDS) to realise that they need to support South African athletes by providing them with access to information about anti-doping in sport and advise them of their rights and obligations in relation to this process.”

Mamabolo said he pleaded with SAIDS during the hearing to provide athletes with anti-doping education.

He said he would not sue as he does not hold grudges. “It was an embarrassment to the nation and my family. I am glad it is over and I can focus fully on my race and prepare thoroughly to defend my title (on June 2).”

This year’s ultramarathon is an “up-run” as it starts in Durban and finishes in Pietermaritzburg over a distance of 86.96km.

Mamabolo ran the Two Oceans Marathon in March after his provisional suspension was lifted in February.

This allowed him to compete until the findings of the hearings are completed.

How he won the case

His legal team says these were the irregularities found in Mamabolo’s drug-testing process:

» Lack of sufficient and Drug-Free Sport-trained personnel on the day of the race;

» Absence of any checks for conflicts of interest on those performing official functions;

» Substantial failure by Drug-Free Sport to comply with the process for notifying Mamabolo that he was selected for drug testing;

» The performance of certain essential functions – including the witnessing of the production of the sample and chaperoning of athletes – by persons who were not appropriately accredited by Drug-Free Sport to perform those functions;

» The filling out of official Drug-Free Sport documentation that did not record the true facts;

» The absence of control over the doping control station regarding who entered it, and the reasons for athletes leaving and returning;

» The report of the lead doping-control officer did not record any of these shortcomings; and

» Mamabolo was not informed at all of his rights and responsibilities, which meant he could not properly safeguard himself against unintentional ingestion or contamination of the sample after completion of the Comrades.

What Drug-Free Sport says

Khalid Galant, CEO: ”Obviously, we are disappointed that the ruling did not go our way. But we have three weeks to consider whether to lodge an appeal. We’ll consult with our senior counsel to see if there are grounds for appeal. We may also consider consulting with the World Anti-Doping Agency. We acknowledge that there were procedural irregularities and we have already instituted improvements, not only for the coming Comrades Marathon, but other major events.”

Comrades Marathon Association on Mamabolo’s prize money

“We are in contact with his manager to determine a suitable date to hand over his prize money and medals. As the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) is an amateur body, we pay out the winnings to South African runners tax free. On their part, the runner has to declare the income to Sars. In terms of the accepted procedure, the CMA pays out the amount as stipulated on the entry form, that is R300?000.” – CMA general manager Gary Boshoff

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