FLAGGING SPORTS GOVERNANCE
SA to submit appeal against anti-doping non-compliance sanction before 13 October deadline
The Springboks and Proteas may yet be able to play under the national flag at the Rugby and Cricket world cups, with the SA Institute for Drug Free Sport set to appeal a threat of punishments for doping code non-compliance.
The South African Institute for Drug Free Sport (Saids) will file an appeal against the World Anti Doping Agency (Wada) next week to delay sanctions after South Africa fell foul of code violations.
Daily Maverick broke the story that South Africa faced a raft of punishments for failing to update its anti-doping regulations in line with Wada’s requirements.
Sources have subsequently confirmed to Daily Maverick that an appeal will be lodged with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne on 12 October – just a day before Wada’s deadline for South Africa to comply with the latest doping code.
Once an appeal is lodged with CAS, the consequences of non-compliance, such as having the national flag removed from sporting events, is suspended.
It should mean that the Springboks and Proteas, both currently playing in the Rugby and Cricket world cups, will be able to continue to participate under the national flag.
Regardless though, it is an embarrassing situation that should not have happened if the national government had heeded Saids’ many warnings to adopt the new code at parliamentary level timeously.
As it is now, it will cost Saids a fortune in legal fees at CAS to stave off serious consequences.
Removing the national flag is just one of the punishments Wada uses. There are more:
- Saids will be ineligible to host any event hosted or organised or co-hosted or organised by Wada;
- Saids representatives will be ineligible to participate in any Wada Independent Observer Program or Wada Outreach Program or other Wada activities;
- Saids will not receive any Wada funding (either directly or indirectly) relating to the development of specific activities or participation in specific programmes;
- Saids representatives will be ineligible to sit as members of the boards or committees or other bodies of any signatory (or its members) or association of signatories until Saids is reinstated;
- South Africa will not be awarded the right to host regional, continental and World Championships, and events organised by Major Event Organisations, until Saids is reinstated;
- South Africa’s flag will not be flown at regional, continental and World Championships, and Events, organised by Major Event Organisations (other than the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games); and
- South Africa’s flag will not be flown at the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.
No SA flag for athletes in Riga
While the Springboks and Proteas may yet see the national flag flown at their events, South Africa’s 14 athletes at the World Athletics Road Running Championships in Riga did not have the same luxury.
World Athletics decided to remove the South African flag.
“We have been informed by Wada that RSA is non-compliant with the Wada Code,” a statement from World Athletics said before their event started on 30 September.
“As an International Federation, World Athletics has obligations under the Code in relation to events which we organise.
“Although the decision does not take effect in relation to RSA until 14 October, World Athletics tales its obligations to Wada very seriously and as we are concerned that World Athletics will be declared non-compliant, as a precautionary measure we will not be flying the RSA flag here at the World Championships in Riga.”
World Rugby and the International Cricket Council are also bound by the Wada Code at their events, and they would be compelled to do the same as it stands now.
But the lodging of the appeal should change the situation.
On 23 September, Wada officially informed Saids (as a signatory to Wada’s Code) that it was in breach. That’s because the South African government has not met a deadline to amend the outdated drug-free sport act to comply with the latest Wada Code that came into force in 2021.
Wada’s revised anti-doping code came into effect on 1 January 2021 and all member countries are expected to comply. To date, more than 700 sporting bodies and federations have accepted the new code.
On 23 September 2023, Wada issued a statement confirming that South Africa had not updated its anti-doping code and had fallen foul of Wada’s mandatory compliance requirements and now faces the above consequences.
If South Africa has not complied fully by 13 October, the first steps of the consequences of non-compliance are set to start (although the appeal should suspend this coming into effect). And one of those consequences is not being allowed to participate under a national flag.
Wada noted at its last executive council (exco) meeting on 22 September that only South Africa and Bermuda had not complied with the new code, despite repeated warnings and clear deadlines.
While the appeal should delay the removal of the South African flag at the Rugby and Cricket world cups in the coming weeks, it is really just a delaying tactic.
South Africa still has to get its house in order and pass an amended Wada-compliant anti-doping code through Parliament.
Minister of Sport Zizi Kodwa and his predecessor, Nathi Mthethwa, have literally dropped the ball on this, because it hasn’t emerged from nowhere.
Saids is an independent body that oversees anti-doping programmes in South Africa. It started the process of drafting a new sports integrity bill in 2022.
Saids held its first formal gathering with sports federations and mother body the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) in Johannesburg on 25 November 2022.
In April 2023, Saids sent out a draft bill to all federations and Sascoc outlining the compliance regulations. They had until 5 May for comments and amendments. After that deadline, Saids reviewed comments and inputs and made changes where appropriate.
A second and final round of consultation was stalled before the draft legislation could be sent to government because Wada would not accept the timelines for promulgation of sports integrity legislation and insisted that government focus on the technical amendments of the existing legislation.
Perhaps Saids could have pushed harder and been more forceful. But Saids is a public entity and the custodian of anti-doping in South Africa.
It does not have the authority to make policy – that falls to Parliament – in this case through the Department of Sport and the sports portfolio committee.
They have failed South African athletes. DM