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[OPINION] Ntshumayelo’s reduced drug ban a fail in fight for drug-free sport

Former SuperSport United and Orlando Pirates midfielder Thandani Ntshumayelo is free to try and resurrect his career after he successfully appealed his four-year drug ban to be reduced to two years.

While on the books of the Buccaneers, Ntshumayelo tested positive for cocaine when a random test was conducted after a Premier League fixture in September 2016. He was subsequently banned and because he had already served two years, the man they call ‘Bibo’ is now free to resume his career.

I have a few problems with this judgment.

Not only does it undermine the fight for drug-free sport, but many of us (fans and media alike) are celebrating Ntshumayelo’s possible return to football like it was someone else’s fault that he was banned in the first place.

Drugs and performance-enhancing substances will never have a place in sport and I believe that the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport (SAIDS) should have upheld the ban as an example to all sportsmen and women that drugs are unacceptable in the game we all love and support.

Every sportsman and woman has the responsibility to look after themselves and their careers and nobody forced Ntshumayelo into taking a drug that is illegal in our country, let alone in the sport that he claims to love.

One of the other reasons why I find the ban reduction a slap in the face for the struggle for drug-free sport is that we, as the media, assisted and enabled his plea for a reduction. The series of interviews he did with Thomas Mlambo on both Mlambo’s television and radio sports shows, Sport at 10 and the Ultimate Sports Show, assisted his plea with SAIDS to appeal his ban long after the 21 days in which he was granted to appeal his admission of guilt and suspension.

Not only did Ntshumayelo undermine football, he had no regard for his own wellbeing and the wellbeing of his family who he says he wants to be able to provide for if he does resurrect his football career.

At 28, Ntshumayelo is still at the peak of his powers and his talent is undeniable, but actions like his do not deserve second chances because they damage the already tainted image of professional footballers in our country.

We slated Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova for taking a substance that was updated onto WADA’s list of prohibited substances and we never skip a moment to remind the world about her ban, but we are quick to celebrate Ntshumayelo’s return from a far more serious substance abuse ban.

We all need to check ourselves for our bias and players need to have a higher level of responsibility for their lives and their careers.

Philasande Sixaba is a sports reporter at Eyewitness News. Follow him on Twitter: @psixaba

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