Sunday, September 26, 2021

Cloud of uncertainty hangs over Montsho

With her B Sample test showing another adverse analytical finding of methylhexaneamine, a period of uncertainty and hard decision making now awaits Amantle Montsho.

The athlete has been given until August 22 to respond to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) concerning the adverse analytical findings in her tests.

Montsho will now have to decide and inform the CGF whether she wants to have a hearing or wants to waive her right to a hearing and accept the findings.

Should she opt for a hearing, Montsho, together with her legal advisors, will then have to attend a hearing at a date yet to be determined. A sanction will follow if she waives her right to a hearing.
In the event, a potentially career-ending two-year ban hangs above the Botswana golden girl’s head.

Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Communications and Marketing Manager, Lame Ramokate, said Montsho has already been notified and is considering the two options ahead of making her decision.

Ramokate added that the CGF, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the BNOC are waiting for her decision.

With age not on Monthso’s side, any sanction amounting to more than a year will most likely spell an end to a glittering career that has brought joy to Botswana.

If sanctioned for a certain period, an athlete is not allowed to participate in any official event during the period.

While a banned athlete can train alone and without a coach, he or she is not allowed on official grounds, and cannot compete or undertake any sport related duty.

While it is improbable that Montsho can get away without a sanction due to the strict liability principle, the difficult question facing her is how choosing either of the two options facing her will affect the sanction that is likely to be imposed on her.

A closer to the case say under the strict liability principle, an athlete is responsible for the substances found in his or her bodily specimen, even in situations where the athlete unintentionally used the prohibited substance or was just negligent.

“What is very important is to know that the substance found in Montsho’s sample is classified as a ‘specified substance.’ This means the substance is a common substance that can be found in common things like energy drinks, food or supplements and is very likely to be taken inadvertently,” the source explained.

The classification means with solid proof that there was no intention to use a prohibited substance, an athlete may get a greater reduction in the potential two-year ban.

While this may be somewhat consoling in an otherwise difficult situation, the source said that the difficulty comes in proving there was no intention to use the said substance or enhance performance.
“What Montsho can do at the moment is to try and seek an expert opinion before taking any decision. This must be a well informed advisor who can give her an honest appraisal of the options in front of her so that she makes informed decisions,” another source explained.

Commenting on the two options facing Montsho, the source said the athlete’s decision should be based on how much proof she has to show how the said substance entered her body, which can prove whether she intended to cheat or not.

Should Montsho ask for a hearing, the source said, she will need to prove beyond doubt that she had no intention of using a prohibited substance, which is difficult and unadvisable if there is insufficient proof.

“This will mean that the athlete will have to find herself legal counsel who is well informed on issues and will then have a date set for a hearing. The downside is that this takes time and may eventually lead to a harsher sanction should the athlete fail to prove ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that she had no intention of using the said substance,” the source explained.

On the flipside, should the athlete waive her right to a hearing and accept the findings, she may get a minimum of two years, but there is also a chance for reduction of potential sanction.

“For this to happen, she will not only have to accept the findings and explain how the said substance entered her body, but will also have to show there was no intention of using the substance.
Should there be solid reasons to back this up, an athlete may even get a sanction not exceeding a six months ban, the source explained.

Meanwhile, the BNOC says there is nothing much they can do to help Montsho. Ramokate said Botswana has no established National Anti Doping (NADO) structures, so the National Olympic Committee assumes the role of NADO, an arm that affiliates directly to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

As such the BNOC ensures that the mandate of WADA is being fully executed and adhered to.

“Unfortunately the BNOC cannot assist the athlete in that regard as they are the body that is also accountable to WADA. Otherwise the BNOC would then play two roles of being the referee and the player at the same time,” Ramokate explained.

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