By Mark Etheridge
South African athletics is celebrating good and dealing with bad news on Freedom Day this Friday.
The good news is that ace sprinter Simon Magakwe has shaken off the shackles and equalled Johan Rossouw’s South African 100-metre record.
The bad news is that rising star and former world junior long jump champion Luvo Manyonga is no longer free to compete, having been suspended after testing positive for highly addictive recreational drug tik, otherwise known as crystal meths.
Magakawe, competing at the SA University championships in Johannesburg, clocked 10.06 in the semi-final.
That equals former policeman Rossouw’s long standing national mark of 10.06, set way back in 1988.
Magakwe set a personal best 10.11sec to win the national championships in Port Elizabeth two weeks ago. That bettered the 10.18 Olympic A qualifying standard. He now needs to do that on international soil to fulfil all the selection criteria.
He was due to run the final of the event later on Friday.
Manyonga, 21, is an athlete with a huge future, having won the junior world title in Canada, two years ago, ending fifth at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea late last year and then winning the All Africa Games title in Mozambique just days later.
Manyonga was tested in his home town of Stellenbosch. He no stranger to controversy having gone missing in action after last year’s championships in Durban.
He will now have to appear before a disciplinary hearing of the SA Institute for Drug-free Sports (SAIDS). He is suspended from all competition until any decision by SAIDS.
Athletics South Africa CEO Frik Vermaak confirmed the positive test on Thursday but the athletics governing body will only comment further once SAIDS has followed due process and concluded the case.
It is reliably learnt that Manyonga did not request the testing of his B sample, an option open to athletes after their A sampled has been tested.
The South African athletics fraternity has long been frustrated with Manyonga, realising his enormous talent, and have on more than one occasion attempted to keep Manyonga focused on his athletics.
Manyonga was the best long jumper in the land last year, with a leap of 8.26 metres in Finland. He has yet to jump the 8.20m on local soil this year, nor did he compete at the SA championships earlier this month, one of the provisos for possible selection to Team SA.
His chance of making the Olympics now hang by the slimmest of threads. A ban of anything much longer than a month would seem set to rule him out of the qualification time frame.