In light of the escalating doping scandals that have rocked the sporting fraternity worldwide, Tuelo Serufho, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) has warned that they will be keeping a close eye on local athletes in preparation for the Rio Olympics.
Botswana has recorded four doping cases in its history, with the recent case involving two members of the rugby sevens national team who failed a doping test while representing the country in a tournament held in South Africa.
“The world of sports is quite concerned at the rate at which the doping cases are coming out. While there have been great efforts aimed at fighting doping, it is actually worrying that we are getting to know about systemic doping that involves athletes and institutions globally,” said Serufho.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has tightened the screws to ensure that all countries are compliant to the highest levels. Countries like Kenya, Russia and a few other nations in Europe have been put on the list of provisional compliance and will be kept under close monitoring by WADA to ensure that they are compliant. Serufho said they have been conducting nationwide doping education programmes over the years in a bid to ensure compliancy from Team Botswana.
“Since we are a few months away from the Rio Olympics, the event that occurs in the month immediately preceding our 50th independence celebrations, we would not like to see our athletes involved in doping scandals that will degrade the prestige of our country. We want to remain clean,” the BNOC boss said.
Concerning the coming Rio Olympics, Serufho said over and above their regular education and testing, they will intensify efforts to make sure that local athletes stay clean.
“I can assure you that every athlete who is trying to qualify or has already qualified for Rio will be tested a couple of times. We have done tests and will continue to do them unannounced between now and the games. We will chase these players to their homes or training venues because we do not condone doping at all,” Serufho said.
In their quest to subdue the rapid growth of doping cases, the National Olympic Committee has recently taken a position not to encourage the use of supplements as this is where most problems arise from. Athletes usually consume banned substances mostly from energy drinks, power enhancing substances and other liquids. Serufho insisted that BNOC will not provide any form of support to athletes who choose to use such supplements on their own. He also urged athletes to stick to their normal diet to elude temptations of trying out things that may eventually land them in trouble.
“I wish to confirm that you can’t get any banned substance from common rice, maize meal, salads and normal meat,” he said.
There are strict measures taken against those who are caught engaging in the use of banned substances. First time offenders can be banned for four years while repeat offenders may get longer sentences or even be banished from sports for life. Any technical teams or sports administrators who endorse doping can also be sanctioned with a life time ban from sports.
“IAAF officials who were involved in systemic doping scandal were recently banned from sports for the rest of their lives. This is how serious we are,” Serufho enlightened.
In a situation where a banned substance is found in the athlete’s body through recommended medication after following all necessary procedures, the athlete cannot be penalized because they will have been granted permission by medical authorities. Athletes like Nigel Amos and Isaac Makwala, who regularly compete at international level are usually put on the registered testing pool, where doping control authorities are entitled to know their full detailed whereabouts all the time.
“They basically submit a detailed program of their daily schedule to the doping control authorities including all their movements. This ensures the authorities know their whereabouts all the time,” said Serufho.
BNOC educators have been moving around the country to educate national teams and schools about doping. Serufho also said they intend to establish a stand-alone National Anti-Doping Organization (NADO) that will focus on the issue of doping. Meanwhile only three Botswana athletes have already qualified for the Rio Olympics; Nigel Amos (800m), Isaac Makwala and Onkabetse Nkobolo (400m). The men’s 4x400m relay team will include only six best athletes. Meanwhile, the volleyball ladies national team will depart for Cameroon tomorrow to compete in the Olympic qualifiers that will feature 17 African countries vying for one Olympic slot. The boxing qualifiers are scheduled for next month in Morocco. There are also two Judokas; Thato Kevin Lebang and Gavin Mogopa who are currently undergoing training in Tunisia in preparation for the Olympic qualifiers.
“We also have some track and field athletes and swimmers who are yet to meet the qualifying standards by end of June,” Serufho said. The Rio Olympic Games are slated for August 2016.