One of rugby’s inspirational stories hangs by a thread as player considers his options
Springbok wing Aphiwe Dyantyi and his representatives have begun the arduous task of attempting to prove his innocence after his B sample confirmed the positive findings of his initial drug test on Friday.
In responding to queries about the way forward for Dyantyi, whose statement admitting to having returned a positive drug test for performance-enhancing drugs a week ago rocked South African rugby, agent Gert van der Merwe responded by WhatsApp, saying: “We are investigating everything.”
With Dyantyi having vehemently denied knowingly taking banned substances in his statement, Van der Merwe’s text can only mean they are testing the player’s supplements – the sponsorship of which reportedly began in April – for traces of the metandienone, methyltestosterone and LGD-4033 found in his system.
Classified as exogenous anabolic androgenic steroids, the three substances are said to enhance physique and performance, help treat low testosterone and help patients with muscle weakness and wastage, respectively.
With the SA Institute for Drug-free Sport (Saids) having outlined Dyantyi’s options as admitting the charge and accepting the appropriate sanction, providing mitigating circumstances for a reduced sanction or contesting the charge before an independent tribunal, Van der Merwe’s text suggests the player is currently not inclined to go down without a fight.
Quite how Dyantyi, who turned 25 on Monday, will do that is a mystery.
Top sports scientist Ross Tucker made that point in his Twitter account on Friday.
He said that, while the most popular defence to an adverse drug test finding for athletes is that they took supplements contaminated by banned substances, the onus is on the athlete to prove they had taken reasonable precautions to avoid it.
“‘I took something a company gave me as a sponsorship’ is not valid because the athlete is ultimately liable for what is in their body,” Tucker tweeted.
“A pro athlete pretty much always has to assume they’re an hour away from being tested, so they must constantly ask: ‘Is there a chance that this powder or pill or liquid contains banned drugs?’
“If the player hasn’t done this, then it doesn’t matter if it’s an accident or not, it’s as good as doping. So it ‘can’ happen that athletes prove inadvertent doping, but the bar is necessarily high.”
For his part, Dyantyi vehemently denied his guilt in his statement, which read: “I want to deny ever taking any prohibited substance, intentionally or negligently, to enhance my performance on the field. I believe in hard work and fair play. I have never cheated and never will.”
Dyantyi’s problems began on August 13, when Saids notified him of an adverse finding from his July 2 doping test.
The news would have been a devastating blow for Dyantyi, who was already sitting out the Rugby Championship due to a hamstring injury and sweating over whether he would be back in time to stake a claim in Rassie Erasmus’ Rugby World Cup squad.
As it turned out, the news broke two days before the squad announcement and added a pall of controversy to the event (the other adverse news was allegations that lock Eben Etzebeth had been part of a group racially abusing and assaulting another group of people on a night out in Cape Town the day before).
Should Dyantyi be found guilty and banned, his inspirational story that has developed over the past two years will come apart at the seams.
Aside from being an explosive and skilful player, Dyantyi’s claim to fame was that he had already given up on the game after not even playing first-team rugby at school, then saw a spectacular rise once he picked up the game again.
Dyantyi made his Super Rugby and Springbok debuts last year and went on to be named World Rugby’s breakthrough player of the year after scoring scintillating tries, which included two against the All Blacks in the Boks’ shock victory in Wellington last year.
Now all of that hangs by a thread.