I was slapped, says ath­lete

Coaches, ath­letes re­veal ASA’s reign of racial, phys­i­cal abuse

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - KEVIN MCCALLUM

AS THE Ath­let­ics South Africa (ASA) pres­i­dent and board scram­bled to keep their jobs af­ter they were sus­pended this week, ath­letes and coaches al­legedly have spo­ken out on how ASA has cov­ered up ver­bal and phys­i­cal abuse, and racism against ath­letes.

Sto­ries of a 19-year-old woman be­ing slapped by a high-rank­ing ASA of­fi­cial emerged yes­ter­day, along with tales of how ath­letes were hu­mil­i­ated and threat­ened at the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships in Berlin in Au­gust.

ASA man­agers at the World Cham­pi­onships have been ac­cused of be­ing in­com­pe­tent and more in­ter­ested in shop­ping sprees than mak­ing sure ath­letes had enough food and cloth­ing for the event.

Yes­ter­day, the SA Sports Con­fed­er­a­tion and Olympic Com­mit­tee (Sas­coc) fol­lowed up its sus­pen­sion of the board of ASA and its pres­i­dent, Leonard Chuene, for their han­dling of the Caster Se­menya de­ba­cle by sus­pend­ing ASA as a mem­ber of Sas­coc. ASA, how­ever, claims Sas­coc does not have the power to sus­pend its board, al­though Sas­coc’s pres­i­dent Gideon Sam said yes­ter­day his body had the au­thor­ity through an act of Par­lia­ment.

The sus­pen­sion means ASA is ef­fec­tively banned from com­pet­ing in the Olympics.

The Se­menya saga, for which Chuene has apol­o­gised for ly­ing about the sex-test­ing of the 800m world cham­pion, and the sus­pen­sion of the board and Chuene, has fi­nally seen ath­letes and coaches break what one called the “shack­les of fear” they claim they have been forced to live un­der.

Chuene and the ASA man­age­ment team in Berlin have been ac­cused of hu­mil­i­at­ing team mem­bers; prac­tis­ing “racism” to­wards white coaches; be­ing woe­fully in­ex­pe­ri­enced and know­ing lit­tle about ath­let­ics; forc­ing ath­letes to go hun­gry; go­ing on long shop­ping sprees; and in­still­ing a cli­mate of fear in the team.

How­ever, the abuse seems to have been go­ing on for some time. Ni­co­lene Cronje, who at one stage was ranked as the No 1 in the world, has ac­cused Mo­latelo Male­hopo, now the gen­eral man­ager of ASA, of phys­i­cally as­sault­ing her at the World Ju­nior Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships in Ja­maica in 2002 when she was 19. She had been sit­ting with her coach watch­ing the ath­let­ics, when Male­hopo called her over.

“He took me to one of the side tun­nels in the sta­dium. He started point­ing his fin­ger at me and ac­cus­ing me of dis­obey­ing me and started smack- ing me in the face,” said Cronje yes­ter­day af­ter noon, who added there were two wit­nesses to the as­sault, coaches Snowy Matthews and Magda Botha.

“The next day I had a meet­ing with my­self and Leonard, and he asked me very po­litely what hap­pened, and I told him this guy smacked me in the face. He told me ‘Let’s for­get this ever hap­pened or your ath­let­ics ca­reer is over’.

“I didn’t know what to do and kept quiet. I only told my par­ents about a month ago when the Caster thing hap­pened.

“I think a lot of ath­letes are com­ing for­ward be­cause of that now. At this stage I don’t feel like com­pet­ing and train­ing un­der the ASA ban­ner be­cause that would mean I con­done the way they op­er­ate.”

The of­fi­cials in charge of the South African team in Berlin were Phiwe Mlan­geniTs­holet­sane, ASA’s events man­ager, who was the head man­ager, Chuene’s per­sonal as­sis­tant, Hu­mile Bo­gatsu, named as as­sis­tant man­ager, and Hen­drik Mok­ganyetsi, the for­mer 400m star.

“They don’t have a clue about ath­letes and ath­let­ics,” said sprinter Paul Gor­ries.

“They have no back­ground on how to work with se­nior ath­letes. A con­tract for ju­nior ath­letes was handed out with clauses such as not be­ing al­lowed to go and eat with your par­ents. We also got threat­ened con­stantly with be­ing sent home if you don’t act ac­cord­ing to the con­tract. They were be­sot­ted with power.”

Magda Botha, one of the coaches with the South African team in Berlin, has ac­cused Mok­ganyetsi of spy­ing on ath­letes and racism. Botha said Mok­ganyetsi had con­tin­u­ally re­ferred to her as the “white” coach and made coach­ing de­ci­sions without con­sult­ing her. He also told Se­menya, who had sat down next to Botha to eat a meal in the ath­letes’ din­ing hall, that she was not al­lowed to sit be­side the coach.

“I was la­belled as ‘the white coach’, which I have never been – I was al­ways just a ‘coach’,” said Botha, a highly-re­spected in­ter­na­tional sprint coach.

When Wil­helm van den Vyfer had to write ex­ams in South Africa, ASA re­fused to fly him back for the 4x100m re­lay squad, de­spite there be­ing no re­place­ment in the team. Bo­gatsu was flown back and forth from Ger­many at ASA ex­pense to write ex­ams in South Africa.

Coaches were ac­cused of leak­ing the Se­menya story to the me­dia and of be­ing racist be­cause they did not at­tend Se­menya’s medal cer­e­mony. Botha said all ath­letes were in the sta­dium to watch Se­menya re­ceive her gold medal. She said none of the man­age­ment team at­tended medal cer­e­monies for Khotso Mokoena or Mbu­laeni Mu­laudzi.

“We were told by Chuene that noth­ing from Berlin must be dis­cussed upon our re­turn.

“To save the sport, Chuene and his cronies must go.”

AU­THOR­ITY: Sasoc pres­i­dent Gideon Sam

SUS­PENDED: ASA pres­i­dent Leonard Chuene

CHAM­PION: Star Caster Se­menya


‘AS­SAULT’: ASA gen­eral man­ager Mo­latelo Male­hopo

‘VIC­TIM’: Ni­co­lene Cronje says Male­hopo at­tacked her

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