The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) were informed by Tennis South Africa, on 21 January 2020, of the ruling by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to suspend paralympian wheelchair tennis player, Lucas Sithole from all forms of competition (including all sports that are signatories to the WADA code) for the next two years.
The decision of the ban, announced by the ITF follows Sithole’s anti-doping rule violation under Article 2.4 of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme which states that players are required to be available for one hour everyday for out-of competition testing. Sithole was charged with missing three anti-doping tests in a 12-month period in 2019.
The ITF have confirmed that Sithole’s competition results between June and September 2019 are not disqualified as there is no suggestion that these results were affected by doping during that period.
“Sithole admitted to the violation and provided an explanation for each of the three missed tests” which were attributed to family emergencies.
Sithole has been one of SASCOC’s Opex Programme athletes until the end of the 2019 programme. He boasts many achievements in Wheelchair Tennis. He became the first male from Africa to win singles US Open title when he won the Grand slam trophy in 2013 in New York and he won the Australian Open doubles title in 2016, as a duo with David Wagner. He has competed in a myriad of competitions raising the South African flag high in Paralympic sports.
Acting President of SASCOC, Mr Barry Hendricks commented, “This decision comes at a crucial time with seven months to go to Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Lucas Sithole has performed well over the years and it is disheartening that he will not be competing in any competition for the next two years which affects his career adversely.”
“As the National Paralympic Committee we have met with Tennis SA and are encouraged with their support programme during the period of his suspension” added Mr Hendricks.
Doping is a serious offence and SASCOC encourages all athletes to adhere to the anti-doping rules at all times. National Federations should also play an integral role to educate athletes on the subject.