Lepopo rallies behind Tjoka

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Marathon Queen 'Mamoroallo Tjoka fineshes the line during High Altude MarathonMikia Kalati

Veteran marathon runner, Mabuthile Lebopo, says he is “very saddened” to see long-time colleague ‘Mamoroallo Tjoka being suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Tjoka has been slapped with a two-year ban after testing positive for banned substances during the 2014 High Altitude Summer Marathon held in Mokhotlong.

The athlete has been banished alongside Ramolefi Motsieloa who was also found to have used illegal drugs during the same race. Tjoka won the female category of the annual event, while Motsieloa came second.

“She is somebody I know very well as we stayed together in Rustenburg, South Africa, in 2004, while we were contracted to the same athletics club,” Lebopo said on Tuesday.

“Like many in the athletics fraternity, I am really surprised and saddened to hear about this ban.”

Lebopo said the feeling among most of the athletes is Tjoka could have used “something” without knowing it would get her in trouble.

“We all feel sorry for her because she has brought this country so much success and our hopes were that something could be done to help her as she has never been a dirty athlete,” said Lebopo.

“Our athletes have been doing very well in marathons and this suspension could damage our reputation outside the country. Since even Tjoka herself doesn’t know what happened, it would help us all if the authorities could conduct a thorough investigation into what really happened.

“I know she was born with this talent and is naturally a hard worker so we hope the suspension will not kill her mentally.”

Lebopo also says he hopes the ban would not force the seven-time Soweto Marathon-winner to retire in frustration.

“We still need her and I hope she will not think of retiring while she is serving her suspension because there is a lot that she can still offer,” Lebopo said.

“Maybe going for counselling could help her as we make a living out of athletics and the whole thing is going to affect her mentally.

“I also hope the other athletes will be careful about the medication they take once injured as I suspect that could have been the case with  Tjoka as she has been battling injury for some time. It’s important to watch what we eat, drink and use for medication as athletes.”

Lebopo also said Tjoka could use her suspension to fully recover from injury and come back stronger and continue her regional dominance.

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