It's a harsh rule, but catching cheats is certainly much more important than bending long-established rules.
And though it by no means suggests an athlete is actually doping, missed tests place enough question marks over them that they are rather severely punished by authorities.
If they miss three tests in 12 months, athletes are slapped with a two-year ban.
ALSO READ: SA wheelchair tennis champion Lucas Sithole banned
It’s a tough rule, but it has to be strictly implemented.
It was revealed this week that former US Open wheelchair tennis champion and Paralympic medal hopeful Lucas Sithole had been suspended for missing a few tests.
To be fair, it’s not like Sithole was given advanced warning of these out-of-competition tests, as that would defeat the point of attempting to eliminate structured doping programmes.
Instead, professional tennis players must make themselves available for an hour every day, and share their whereabouts during that window, in order to compete within international anti-doping rules.
There’s no arguing that it must be a frustrating exercise for all involved, and it restricts the movement and freedom of athletes when they’re not competing.
But tell that to anyone who has to sit at a desk for eight hours aday, five days a week, 49 weeks a year, and you’re not going to get much sympathy.
While Sithole claimed he needed to attend to family emergencies, at the end of the day, being available is part of the job.
And it’s a crucial part which assists in weeding out individuals who cheat.
As such, there can be zero tolerance, as was explained by Tennis South Africa this week.
Sithole is not the first local athlete to be banned for missed tests.
Former national 100m record holder Simon Magakwe lost a chunk of his career due to a bizarre case in which he allegedly refused a test, the details of which remain unclear.
While Magakwe managed to bounce back and now forms a key part of the SA sprint relay team, we probably missed him at his peak, and one has to wonder why he would chase away officials the way he apparently did, considering the consequences.
There are also ongoing whispers of another South African athlete potentially landing in hot water for missing drug tests, and while it hasn’t been confirmed, there is again unlikely to be much empathy from global anti-doping officials if enough tests have been skipped, regardless of the reasons.
As for Sithole, he has been (and continues to be) an inspiration to many.
After becoming a triple amputee at the age of 12, he went on to win two Grand Slam titles, and he is one of the country’s most widely recognised disabled athletes.
Yes, two years is a harsh ban, and Sithole will find it hard to claw his way back when he becomes eligible to compete again next year.
But there is a bigger picture.
It’s a double-edged sword, and in terms of fairness, catching cheats is certainly much more important than bending long-established rules.
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