Doping spoils Lehata’s career

NTHAKO MAJORO

MASERU – Lesotho’ fastest sprint athlete, Mosito Lehata, will have to wait until 2026 before he can run in competitive athletics again.

Now 32, Lehata’s comeback seems a remote thought though because by 2026 he will be turning 37. This is after the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) suspended him for five years after finding traces of Salbutamol – leading to two anti-doping rules violations prosecuted by SAIDS.

“Mr Lehata tested positive for the presence of Salbutamol and was charged with attempted tampering with the doping control process,” wrote SAIDS on its website, drugfreesport.org.za.   SAIDS has further indicated that Lehata admitted to the charges and waived his right to a hearing.

“He entered into a ‘Results Management Agreement’ that resulted in a reduction in his sanction. His period of ineligibility began on 9th June 2021 (From date of Voluntary Acceptance of Provisional Suspension) and will serve until and including 8th June 2026,” SAIDS wrote on its website.

SAIDS posted Lehata’ sanction story on its site on August 26.   Lehata himself wrote on his facebook page on Tuesday this week, admitting that he made a mistake and therefore he has to pay for it.

“Every action has a consequence. Either it was unintentionally or intentionally,” Lehata wrote. “I have been in athletics for 14 years and I am proud of everything I have accomplished. I made one mistake in 14 years and I have to pay for it.”

Lehata further wrote: “(I) Took one asthma medication and it got me in trouble. For all the young athletes coming up, you don’t have to make the same mistakes I have made, learn from my mistakes. Always be careful of what you take.”

He concluded by thanking Basotho for supporting him all along. “Basotho, you have been so supportive for more than a century. Thank you a million times.” Federation of Athletics Lesotho (FAL)’ Secretary General, Makara Thibinyane, also confirmed the runner’s ban.

Thibinyane said Lehata was first taken for a testing in March this year during one of the South African championships as FAL sent some of the local athletes for the preparations and qualification of the African Senior Championships and the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“It all started on March 27 this year when he was in Bloemfontein for a championship in the company of some of local athletes with whom together we sent for the competition, when SAIDS officials took him for testing and found that he had used one of the banned substances,” Thibinyane said in an interview with Public Eye on Tuesday this week.

“So we started communicating with SAIDS, RADO (Regional Anti-Doping Organisation) and NADO (National Anti-Doping Organisation) around May as we began receiving the correspondence from them.”  Thibinyane said the finalisation of Lehata’s case was communicated to LAF between July and August.

Lehata’s doping mess comes after he was picked as Clean Sport Ambassador in 2016, together with Lesotho taekwondo star, Michelle Tau. Clean Sport is a body promoting education against doping in sports. The clean sport initiative is part of the Africa Zone VI Regional Anti-Doping Organisation (RADO Zone VI).

The organisation was established in 2006 by national Olympic committees and government representatives from Angola, Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, eSwatini, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho with the assistance of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to foster doping-free sport in the Zone VI region.

Lehata is, however, not the first local athlete to be sanctioned for using substances which were banned by WADA for they were believed to be enhancing athletes’ performance. Lesotho marathon queen, ’Mamoroallo Tjoka, and male marathon runner, Sekeke Lesole, are amongst those who have been sanctioned before.

Thibinyane said Lesole was sanctioned for the second time and is currently serving eight years’ suspension, while Tjoka likewise is currently in trouble once again believed to have used banned substances. Tjoka has since made an appeal against SAIDS’ sanction and she is currently inactive pending an appeal hearing. Lesotho’s football star, Tšoanelo Koetle, was also recently in trouble for doping.

Koetle was accused of avoiding doping testing by some NADO officials and was suspended for that. Lehata has been Lesotho’s all-time best short-distance athlete, having represented the country at the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games, among other big international events.

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