Long-distance runner Lebogang Phalula says she has put a doping ordeal behind her, hoping the athletics fraternity will start believing in her again.
In 2011, the South Africa cross country champion’s career was shattered when she tested positive for banned stimulant methylhexaneamine, and served a six-month ban from the sport.
Since her return to professional running, she has had the doping cloud hanging over her head, with the issue being raised time and time again.
“That was a painful period in my life, a time I would like to forget,” Phalula said after winning her second Spar Women’s 10km Challenge race in Johannesburg on Sunday.
“I want to prove to the public, the media and everyone that I’m a clean runner and not a drug cheat.”
Phalula has produced a spate of good results this year, which included her two wins in the Women’s 10km Grand Prix series – the Durban and Johannesburg legs – as well as a first place finish over the 10km distance at last month’s Cape Town Marathon.
She was also crowned the South African cross country champion, winning the 8km race ahead of her twin sister Diana-Lebo, who finished 16 seconds behind her.
Phalula said she was happy to be making a positive comeback in the sport.
“I’m very proud to prove that I’m back and running clean. The doping saga was a very tragic thing in my career and every time I talk about it, it brings tears to my eyes.”
Phalula went on to say that she unaware that she was given a banned substance by someone she considered to be a father figure in her life. “But that was that and now I want to prove everyone who doubts me wrong.”
Twin sister wins Grand Prix
Her sister Diana-Lebo was crowned Grand Prix champion on Sunday, and drove away in a brand new car after winning the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth races in record time. She finished the other three legs of the Grand Prix series in the top five.
Lebogang said she was thrilled for her sister – but would definitely challenge her for the car next year. “I’m very happy that my sister has won the Grand Prix, but I’m really looking forward to winning it in the future. I’m going to work hard over the holidays to make sure I maintain my form and win all the coming Grand Prix races.”
Phalula said that she would also attempt to break the current South Africa 10km record. – Sapa