2012 Comrades Marathon winner, Ludwick Mamabolo, has tested positive for the use of methylhexaneamine. This substance rears it’s head reasonably frequently in the sporting world, and not without any controversy.
Methylhexaneamine, an extract from the geranium plant, is a compound found in nasal decongestants, but has been baned by many professional sports bodies as a performance enhancing substance. Side effects include a heightened sense of awareness and energy, and it can mask fatigue levels. The South African Institute For Drug Free Sport prohibits the use of methylhexaneamine, in-competition.
It has been marketed as a dietary supplement, for use with caffeine, as a stimulant. In New Zealand, it is an active ingredient in some recreational narcotics.
In 1992, Comrades winner Charl Mattheus was stripped of his title after testing positive for methylhexaneamine. In 2010, two Springbok rugby players, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Bjorn Basson, also tested positive for the substance.
In both of these incidents, sports scientist Prof. Tim Noakes, was outspoken about the legality of the substance.
According to Noakes, methylhexaneamine disappears from someone’s system within “24 to 36 hours”. Furthermore, Noakes also does not believe that athletes can gain any advantage from the use of methylhexaneamine.
In response to the Springbok drug controversy in 2010, Noakes said “This is not a doping incident. It’s an incident of inadvertent use through medication of a supplement. To call these guys dopers would be unfair. You can’t label someone a crook if he’s not one.”
“Let’s focus on what is important. Let’s find the steroid-users.”
Does the same school of thought apply for Mamabolo? Should sports bodies focus on more potent performance enhancing drugs, or does the mantra “rules are rules” hold true?