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When Botswana’s 800 metre athlete, Onalenna Baloyi, was banned for doping way back in 2010, his world crumbled around him. The athlete found himself isolated and he soon disappeared into obscurity, as he became the forgotten man of Botswana athletics. “It was a very bad moment in my life. Everyone turned their backs on me and no one wanted anything to do with me. Even murderers were better off than me,” the former athlete said.
After more than five years in obscurity, Baloyi finally resurfaced at the recent Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) anti doping workshop where he was one of the panelists. For a man who has been forgotten and sidelined, the former athlete felt it was befitting that he honours an invitation from the BNOC and come forth to give athletes advice from the stand-point of an athlete who has experienced banning for doping related offenses. “I do not wish any upcoming athlete to go through what I have gone through. Unlike me, I want to see them fulfill their potential and prolong their careers and this is the reason I agreed to be a panelist recently to share with them my experiences,” the soft spoken Baloyi explained.
While still feeling hard done by the then Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) leadership for not helping him fight the ban, the former athlete says,”he has long accepted his situation and is not bitter, though still disappointed. I still believe that the leadership then just decided to forget about me and not help me. I am convinced that I could have escaped the ban or at least got a reduced ban or a warning,” the athlete says. Narrating his ordeal, the athlete said after the BAA received his results, he had made ‘the association aware that the sample numbers in the results they were given was different from the sample numbers he had been given when he was testing.’
“They however told me that I should come back home from Germany, where I was based. They promised that they would take the matter further with the relevant authorities. After some time, they informed me that though the sample numbers were different. They said the sample returned adverse and I was later banned. I believe that had they fought hard for me based on the mixed up numbers, the outcome may not have been as severe as there would still be doubt whether there was no mix ups in the samples,” the former athlete reflects.
As if that was not enough, the athlete said he was then relegated into obscurity and was only offered counseling. Even after his ban was lifted when the two years elapsed, the athlete says he never received any communication from the association. Despite the lingering thoughts of what could have been had the BAA helped him fight his corner, Baloyi says he holds no grudges and is looking forward to helping the country educate its young athletes on doping should his help be needed. Asked why he never availed his services previously, Baloyi said without being invited, as has been the case all along, he would never have had a chance to do such.
“I have always felt I would be of great use in helping educate our upcoming athletes about doping but no one has ever approached me until recently when the BNOC invited me for the workshop,” he explains. While the BAA has failed him, the former 800 metre athlete reserved praise for the current BAA Vice President Glody Dube for reaching out to him after his ban expired. “He knew I was struggling and he called me in his own capacity as a former athlete and my former coach to come stay with him while looking for a job. I have been working with him and he has been good to me,” Baloyi explains.
On whether he will ever get back on the track again, the former athlete says he is considering returning to athletics, though he will not compete in the 800 metre race. “Considering the number of years I have been out as well as my age, should I return to athletics, I would do the marathons and half marathons. My intention is to compete in the 10 km or even 21 km races,” the former athlete concluded.