Comrades Bronze Medalist Fails Drug Test
Initial sample turns up positive for known cheater.
By Riël Hauman
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
The fairytale story of Sergio Motsoeneng’s third-place finish in this year’s Comrades Marathon was possibly tarnished today when it was announced that the South African runner had preliminarily tested positive for an as yet unreported performance enhancing substance. Motsoeneng’s “B” sample will now be tested (a doping test is only considered positive if both the “A” and “B” samples are found to indicate an offending substance).
As reported in Race Results Weekly after the ultramarathon on May 30, Motsoeneng finished ninth in the 1999 Comrades, but was disqualified after an objection was lodged and it was found that he and his brother Sefako had run the race as a relay, sharing the same vest, numbers and transponder (they changed more than once during the race in roadside toilets), but making the mistake of wearing their watches on different arms – and this was noticed in race photographs. Both brothers were banned from the Comrades for ten years, later reduced to five years. At the time, the Motsoenengs, who at first denied the allegations, used their poverty as an excuse for their dishonesty.
This year Sergio was back in the Comrades with the stated aim of making amends for their transgression – and he did so resoundingly in 5:35:58. (He also ran in 2006 and 2009, finishing 29th last year.) He won $11,700 in prize money.
The news of Motsoeneng’s positive test was announced by Richard Stander, administrative head of Athletics South Africa. Stander said that if Motsoeneng is found guilty, “it may well be the end of his athletics career”. Motsoeneng himself said, “I know nothing about it.”
Gerrit Coetzer of Athletics Free State (the province where Motsoeneng is registered) confirmed to RRW that the runner’s “A” sample showed traces of a prohibited substance and that he had asked for the “B” sample to be tested too.
If found guilty, Motsoeneng’s gold medal (gold medals are given to top-10 finishers) will go to Peter Muthubi, who finished eleventh. All runners behind Motsoeneng will move up one position and Muthubi will also receive the prize money for tenth position — $1,560. The Comrades Marathon does not hand out the gold medals and prize money until all drug tests are finalized.