Durban - Former Comrades Marathon champion Ludwick Mamabolo has lashed out at his critics, insisting he has nothing to prove when he launches his bid to defend the 'down run' title he won in 2012 on Sunday.
The 37-year-old took the title under a cloud of controversy after he crossed the line first in the race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, testing positive for the banned substance methylhexaneamine.
However, a subsequent inquiry committee found multiple irregularities in the testing process and he was eventually cleared of doping charges, 11 months after winning the race.
"Don't come here and ask me about 2012," Mamabolo said at the pre-race press conference on Friday, after being asked if he was ready to banish the controversy for good with a win this year.
"It's gone, it's water under the bridge. Now this is 2014. Ask me about Sunday, I'm not here for the other years and I'm not here to prove anyone wrong.
"I am here to do what God and the angels sent me to do, which is to run."
Mamabolo is part of a strong Nedbank team which also includes the 2013 champion Claude Moshiywa, Bongmusa Mthembu and Sweden's Jonas Buud, the top European contender who finished second and fourth in the last three years.
Moshiywa, winner of gold medals over the last four years, was pleased with his preparations for the race, although he admitted there was extra pressure to try and defend his title.
"Winning Comrades last year came with a lot of responsibilities," he said.
"Now there is a lot of pressure to try and do it again.
"Anything is possible come Sunday. I've been training hard and my training routine has been the same, so I hope to do it again."
Other major contenders included three-time winner Stephen Muzhingi from the Toyota team as well as Samancor Chrome pair Gift Kelehe and Fanie Matshipa.
Zimbabwe's Muzhingi is among a host of African runners who will be looking to win, although the 2009, 2010 and 2011 winner was not too optimistic about his chances.
"I've had a lot of injury concerns in the build-up and I'm still struggling right now too," Muzhingi said.
"The reason I am running is only because of my love for the Comrades."
On the women's front, it is difficult to look beyond Russian twins Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva from the Maxed Elite team.
The former won an eighth title last year and would be bidding to equal the nine won by Comrades legend Bruce Fordyce.
The biggest challengers for the crown are expected to come from her sister Olesya, fellow countrywomen Marina Zhalybina from the same team as well as Nedbank pair Eleanor Greenwood and Charne Bosman.
Elena sees Briton Greenwood, third and second in 2011 and 2012 respectively, and South African Bosman as her biggest threats.
"The one girl I'm afraid of this year is Ele Greenwood," the experienced champions said.
"I cannot count out my sister as well. I did see Charne last year and have been following her a bit. She is also one to be watchful for."
Bosman, the local race rookie, came a credible fifth on debut last year and is bidding to become the first South African woman to win since Rae Bisschoff in 1998.