Runner-up’s camp claims Uitenhage 30km race winner Frans has never been tested
Eastern Province Athletics road-running athlete of the year Melikhaya Frans announced his arrival on the big stage with a stunning, but controversial, South African recordbreaking victory in the NMBM 30km Human Race in Uitenhage at the weekend.
The 27-year-old athlete shattered his personal best by more than five minutes on Saturday, defending his title at the annual race in one hour, 30 minutes and 54 seconds.
He beat marathon specialist Lusapho April by nine seconds.
April, who holds the SA 25km best (1:15:02), also went under the previous national 30km mark of 1:32:43 set by Neo Molema in Cape Town in January 2002.
But Frans’s victory was not without controversy as a Twitter debate ensued, with the April camp saying Frans had not been tested for performance enhancing drugs.
“Innocent until proven guilty but the winner and new national record holder has never been tested either in or out of competition,” Perry Beningfield, who manages April, tweeted.
Frans’s achievement will be scrutinised according to ASA’s rules because for an SA record to be ratified there firstly needs to be a doping test, secondly a route measurement confirmation by an IAAF-certified person, and thirdly, there have to be qualified time-keepers at split distances.
Frans was unfazed by the controversy surrounding his victory.
“I am not sure what the fuss is all about,” an elated Frans said.
“It’s not as if it is the first time I’ve beaten him. I beat him in the Freedom Run and in a 5km race in East London.
“As for not being tested, it is nonsense. I was tested twice at the SA Championships in 2011 and in 2014 in East London when I finished behind Lusapho in the Legends Marathon.
“They can bring it on. I am ready for a test anytime.”
Frans said beating April on his home turf of Uitenhage and breaking the SA record at the same time made the victory extra special.
“Three kilometres from the finish I knew I could win the race when I noticed Lusapho was not striding as he did earlier on,” Frans said.
“I didn’t want to get excited and blow the race but waited for the last kilometre to make my move. I am not sure if it was shock or fatigue, but he couldn’t respond.”
EP Athletics’ sponsor liaison officer, Michael Mbambani, who also coaches Frans, dismissed Beningfield’s tweets.
“They came here for an easy payday. Melikhaya did not go into the race to be an also-ran. This is not the first time he has beaten Lusapho,” he said.
“I’m disgusted at the snide remarks by Beningfield and have contacted ASA [Athletics South Africa]. I will be lodging a formal complaint.”
Attempts to get comment from Beningfield yesterday were unsuccessful.
Road-running personality Alec Riddle said he was thrilled with the state of the sport.
“There are a number of promising runners on the scene at the moment and it augurs well for the sport in the province,” he said.
“The remarks and aspersions following Frans’s victory are unfortunate. I am a fan of Lusapho and told him he must expect to be beaten.
“Melikhaya is one of the rising stars in the province and could be our next Michael Scout and even better than George Ntshiliza who won the Two Oceans.”
Riddle also took to Twitter in response to Beningfield, writing: “What a disappointing tweet, casting doubt on an athlete like this? I’m a fan of @LusaphoApril & I’m sure he’ll be disappointed with tweet [sic].”
Beningfield replied: “It is what it is Alec. Unbelievable.”
EPA woman athlete of the year and defending champion Ntombesintu Funzi also put in a five-star performance beating visiting athletes to win the women’s category in 1:54:43.