NNOC takes doping seriously

By Michael Uugwanga

THE Namibia National Olympic Committee (NNOC) takes the problem of doping in sport seriously, following reports that Russia was handed a four-year ban from all major sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), including the upcoming Olympic Games and 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

This means the Russian flag and anthem will not be raised at key events, such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics or the next World Cup. Russian athletes who can prove they are untainted by the doping scandal will be able to compete under a neutral flag though.

Namibia is a regular participant in the Olympic and Paralympics Games.

The NNOC is responsible for working with Wada to ensure that Namibian athletes are free from doping. It is well documented that several Namibian athletes past and present were found guilty of doping.

Former Welwitschias and Wanderers Rugby Club player Arthur Bouwer tested positive for banned steroids while on duty with the Welwitschias at the International Rugby Board (IRB) Nations Cup in Bucharest, Romania in 2016 after he used Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, classified as category S1.1a Exogenous Androgenic Anabolic Steroids on Wada’s 2016 List of Prohibited Substances.

A former U-20 rugby national team player Cameroon McNab also tested positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone and methandienone at the World Rugby U-20 Trophy in Zimbabwe, also in 2016.

Former World Boxing Organisation (WBO) Middleweight world champion Harry ‘Terminator’ Simon tested positive for banned steroids during an international title bout in Windhoek in September 2013 against Geard Ajetovic of Serbia in their International Boxing Federation (IBF) International Light Heavyweight title bout in Windhoek.

In 2007, former Welwitschias player Roger Thompson was slapped with a two-year ban by International Rugby Board after he tested positive for an anabolic steroid after a random doping test in 2006.

Speaking to Confidente Sport, NNOC secretary-general Joan Smit said despite the tests being so expensive, the NNOC has and continues to carry out random testing on athletes that represent Namibia at major events, such as the Olympics, Paralympics, All-Africa Games, world championships and regional competitions.

In the absence of a national anti-doping organisation, the NNOC can act as a national anti-doping organisation, as foreseen by the rules of the Olympic Committee.

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Awareness-raising is coordinated by the NNOC in conjunction with the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service and the Namibia Sports Commission through anti-doping education, but the testing is done by the NNOC.

“NNOC tests athletes as far as it possibly can. Testing is expensive as it costs N$7,000 per athlete. We make use of a laboratory in Bloemfontein, South Africa, but that is only the urine sample, not blood testing. We are so fortunate that most international federations do request urine samples,” said Smit.

Asked if her office has come across any doping case this year and last year, Smit said so far Namibian athletes are clean, but would not rule out the chance that some athletes might try to chemically enhance their performance with the 2020 Tokyo Games just around the corner.

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“No, last year we were very lucky not to have any athlete found guilty.

Athletes were tested before the Rio Games in 2016, All-African Games, Commonwealth Games and during the Confederation of African Nations Association (CANA) Swimming Championship in Namibia, as per requirement by the federation’s anti-doping agency.

“We have qualified doping control officers and a doping education officer in Namibia. For example, if a national team is going out to represent the country, players are tested.

The women’s senior netball team when they went to Singapore to play in the 2019 M1 Nations Cup were not tested, because there was no request from the federation to have them tested,” Smit explained.