Johannesburg - The process which resulted in 2012 Comrades Marathon winner Ludwick Mamabolo testing positive for a banned substance was chaotic, according to a report by an inquiry committee.
Mamabolo was found not guilty on all charges earlier this week. His A and B samples tested positive for methylhexaneamine (MHA) following his victory in last year's ultra-marathon in KwaZulu-Natal.
"There was a complete lack of control over the [security and logging of people entering] the doping control station," according to the report.
The 58-page report lists numerous irregularities in the testing process, including involvement of under-qualified officials, mishandling of samples, and contradictions between documents signed by officials on race day and evidence that was given.
Mamabolo, who became the first South African to win the Comrades Marathon in seven years, was also handed at least two unsealed drinks after he crossed the finish line before he was tested, which were not taken from the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids) supply.
"Rather than revealing this state of affairs, the documentation completed and submitted to Saids for purposes of its review of the day misrepresented the facts and depicted a process and situation that was not nearly as chaotic as had truly been the case [on race day]."
The various contraventions of the international sampling process and anti-doping rules meant there were several occasions when Mamabolo's samples could have been contaminated.
A further consideration in the case was the ease with which MHA could have been mixed into a drink.
Evidence given by experts Mark Blockman and Laurent Rivier showed controversy existed over the effectiveness and absorption of MHA by the body.
Cross-contamination of a drink was not only relatively easy, but would be hard to detect by either smell or taste if mixed into orange juice or a sports drink.
Saids CEO Khalid Galant said on Wednesday the anti-doping body would study the ruling and consider its options.
"While Saids respects the ruling of not guilty by the independent tribunal who presided over the doping charge of Ludwick Mamabolo, we reserve the right of appeal," Galant said.
Saids did not believe the departures from the doping control notification and chaperoning process were substantive, but rather adaptations of the doping control staff to the environment of the day.
"The initial phase of doping control, the notification and escorting phase of the athlete, is a human process that is not automated and adaptations were made to ensure that the system still continued with integrity," Galant said.
He said systems and training of doping control personnel needed to be improved to ensure the integrity of the process.
"System improvements have already been instituted and will be in place in all future events, including the upcoming 2013 Comrades Marathon," Galant said.
MHA is a dietary supplement and nasal decongestant, which can mask fatigue in athletes.