Chiliboy Ralepelle: This is not how I thought my career would end

Chiliboy Ralepelle (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
Chiliboy Ralepelle (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
  • Chiliboy Ralepelle was found guilty by an independent tribunal of taking banned anabolic agent Zenarol, the SA Institute for Drug-free Sport revealed on Wednesday.
  • It was the Springbok's third adverse dope finding in his career, although he was proven to hold no culpability in his first case in 2010.
  • He said the finding was a bitter pill to swallow and likely spelt the end of his career.

Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle told Sport24 he was saddened by the eight-year ban handed to him by an independent doping tribunal, which all but ended his career.

The 33-year-old tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid, Zeranol, during an out of competition test in January last year. The South African Institute for Drug-free Sport (Saids) released Ralepelle’s findings on Wednesday, giving him 21 days to appeal the judgement.

Without committing to whether he would appeal the ruling, Ralepelle said it could be time to move on from the sport altogether. His lawyer, Hendrik Hugo, however, believes there are good grounds for appeal.

"We are busy trying to figure out a way forward and to discuss all possibilities," Ralepelle said.

"Once we have all of those on the table, then it will make it easier for one to make a decision, whether you go ahead with the appeal or you stand back and move on with life.

"At the end of the day, whether it's four or eight years, it's the end of my career.

"It's just sad to see the way my career ended; it's not the way I'd planned when I had the vision in my head.

"But that's life. C'est la vie. You have to swallow the hard pill and toughen up and move on."

Ralepelle played 25 times for the Springboks, after making his debut at just 19 against the All Blacks at Loftus in 2006.

For much of his career, the Pretoria Boys' High School old boy was hoisted as the great hope to one day lead the Springboks as the first black African captain - an honour that later fell for Siya Kolisi.

But the wheels came off when, during the 2010 end-year tour to Europe, Ralepelle and Bjorn Basson tested positive for traces of banned stimulant methylhexanamine.

The pair were cleared of culpability after SA Rugby prescribed the contaminated supplements to the team but the stigma never left them. Ralepelle tested positive again in France in 2015, serving a two-year ban, before returning to South Africa to play for the Sharks.

His redemption job was almost complete when, in 2018, he was part of World Cup-winning Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus's first squad against England, starting the third Test at Newlands that June. It turned out to be his last.

Ralepelle said he had taken the time while he's been suspended from the game to take a serious look into his studies and post-rugby career. He also warned fellow athletes about potential pitfalls related to doping.

"At this moment I'm still trying to figure myself out, which I think is important," he said.

"I need to get back out there in terms of furthering my studies and so on. I am looking forward to moving on to a completely new chapter outside of sport, which is what I've known my whole life.

"All I'll say is that the athletes out there have just got to take care of themselves, look after themselves and make sure that, even if you buy bread, you know who the baker is and what they put in that bread.

"At the end of the day you've got to protect yourself because the onus stays with you as an athlete. It doesn't matter what you drink, eat or take. Whatever plant you smell, you better make sure it's clean."

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