James Bond movies are often criticized for having the same storyline, just with different characters. It is the same with South African rugby players when it comes to testing positive for “banned substances.” Black rugby players in South Africa are always the victims of testing positive for a banned substance by doping officials. Springbok hooker Chilliboy Ralepelle has once again been found guilty to have used a ”ban substance” and has since been handed an eight-year ban.
The Shark hooker, Ralepelle is still shocked like the rest of his supporters and family about this latest onslaught directed at him. One just wonders when will these attacks directed to him ever stop. In this modern era, no rugby player worth his respect can knowingly take a banned substance, as players are tested regularly. Ralepelle, who was tipped at some point to become the next black Springbok captain, has been on the receiving end of doping attacks from his early days with the Bulls.
This latest judgement against Ralepelle brings to light the role of doping officers, medical doctors both in the Sharks team and the Boks to some extent. Ralepelle admits that he did not take any banned substance knowingly, which means he may have been given something to consume that contains an ingredient that is banned. But why will a professional player, with legions of medical professionals around him in the Sharks and in the Boks end up in this situation where he, not for the first time, be alleged to have used a banned substance?
It must be noted that Ralepelle is not the first black rugby player to have been fingered in having used a banned substance by doping officials. Bjorn Basson and Aphiwe Dyantyi are some of the players of colour who also have been found guilty to have consumed a banned substance in their blood samples by doping officials and the latter is still fighting to clear his name, while the former has been forgotten in the game.
Why are the negligent medical professionals not punished accordingly?
Why is it always the black players getting the rough end of the stick?
Do doping officers also have a hand in tampering with the results of black players, so as to help the system that is aimed at destroying them win?
Ralepelle has been enjoying his game lately with the Sharks, Basson was a try-scoring machine in his days and Dyantyi was recognised by world rugby as the best young player in the world not-so-long ago. It’s worrying because it seems the narrative here is that there is no way a black player can be that good without cheating. My point is not to play the race card, however, it is a well-known fact that the medical personnel in many franchises are white, who unfortunately turn to focus largely on white players’ diet and than their black counterpart. It does not help that even those who are tasked in conducting the tests on players are also white and might seem to care less about black players than they do with whites.
While we often talk about transformation in the playing personnel in South African rugby, this latest revelation points that we also need to talk transformation in the medical personnel in the rugby teams and also in agencies that are responsible for conducting tests. Results of black players continue to be tampered with as it is suspected in this Ralepelle case and that needs to be thoroughly investigated. But most importantly, medical personnel need to have a regular educational session with players regarding their diet. If SA Rugby cannot enforce these sessions, then tomorrow another player of colour will bite the dust.