Other Sport

Athletes slam incompetent ASA

2009-11-06 13:49
Leonard Chuene (File)

Johannesburg - Elite South African athletes and a national coach have stood up against Athletics South Africa (ASA) for alleged incompetence.

Much of the criticism in a joint statement revolved around the team managers at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin in August, including ASA president Leonard Chuene's personal assistant, Humile Bogatsu, and ASA events manager Phiwe Mlangeni-Tsholetsane.

Chuene, Bogatsu and Tsholetsane were all suspended, along with other ASA employees and board members including general manager Molatelo Malehopo, by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASACOC) on Thursday for their handling of the Caster Semenya gender debacle.

And some of the athletes who competed in Berlin, including former world junior 200m champion Paul Gorries, Magda Botha, the team's sprint coach and former Olympic walker Nicolene Cronje, have hit out at them with claims of mismanagement and racism.

"They were besotted with power - constantly trying to show the athletes who is boss," said Gorries, who ran the 4X400m relay in Berlin.

"Phiwe knows nothing about athletics. Her comments showed this clearly! Hendrick (Mokganyetsi, team manager) was aggressive towards everybody and made numerous wrong decisions.

"Humile is nothing more than a secretary - she knows nothing about managing a team. She was also flown back and forth between Germany and SA, at ASA's cost (to write exams).

"They (Tsholetsane and Bogatsu) were constantly shopping and not giving attention to what they were there for - managing the team. Or they were flitting around Chuene.

"We were castigated because we did not, according to them, support Caster, but not one of them was at Khotso's (Mokoena) or Mbulaeni's (Mulaudzi) medal ceremonies."

An anonymous athlete who competed in Berlin, as well as the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, said the 2009 World Championships "was the worst event".

Another unnamed athlete, who referred to the global showpiece as "bootcamp", said there was "no communication" from management.

Botha said the team managers had "no experience", adding that Tsholetsane "knows nothing of athletics" and Bogatsu "made no contribution to the team at all."

She added that the tests conducted on world 800m champion Semenya had been handled "completely wrongly" and that Chuene, who later admitted to lying about the tests, had tried to force the team to cover up the mess management had created.

"In the last meeting before our return, Leonard tried to convince us this was the best team management ever in the history of SA athletics and that, if we had a problem, we had to remember we are a family and a family does not speak out.

"It was clear what he was trying to say - that nothing from Berlin should be discussed with anyone on our return."

Cronje, who has not competed since she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in 2007, said she had been physically assaulted by Malehopo at the 2002 World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica, when she was 19-years-old.

"Molatelo Malehopo called me aside together with Snowy Matthews and Magda Botha and he lost his temper," she recalled.

"He smacked me several times in the face, to the extent that Snowy had to come between us and stop him.

"The next day Leonard Chuene called me in and asked me what happened. I told him, and his words to me were: "My child, should this get out to the press or your family, your athletics career is over. Let's pretend it never happened".

Cronje said she hoped to compete again but was worried about the state of the sport.

"There is so much more that is happening in SA athletics and I am not sure if we will ever get to the bottom of it," she said.

"Sponsors withdrawing, cheap clothing being issued to athletes, money disappearing, athletes being mistreated, bad accommodation and food for athletes... and so the list goes on."

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