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  • Writer's pictureThathe Msimango

Uproar as KZNA official prevents pregnant athlete from running

South African ultra-marathon starlet Fikile Mbuthuma is demanding justice after a KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA) official prevented her from taking part in a 1 500m race because she is pregnant. The incident occurred at the Kings Park Athletics Stadium in Durban on Saturday.

A KZNA official prevented Mbuthuma from racing the 1500m on Saturday. Photo Credit: Fikile Mbuthuma.

The 40-year-old Harding-born athlete was yanked off the starting line by a referee who insisted that she can't run because she is pregnant. Mbuthuma, who is seven and a half pregnant feels she was embarrassed by the officials when one demanded she produce a doctor's letter before granting her permission to participate in the race.

"I must say I was embarrassed by what happened to me on Saturday," elaborates Mbuthuma. "I spent time jogging in front of referees and why they didn't tell me that I won't run because I'm pregnant? Before the start of the race, a referee said I can't run because I'm pregnant and I asked why because I have been training throughout my pregnancy. She said I must produce a doctor's letter so that I can participate in the race. Where was I supposed to get that? Then she said I must write a small letter on my own agreeing that I hold myself responsible if something happens to me. I ended up pulling out of the race. Imagine lot of people were looking at me because I didn't run. I felt embarrassed but I still ask myself why they only told me one minute before the race?"

Mbuthuma has been training throughout her pregnancy. Photo Credit: Fikile Mbuthuma.

Mbuthuma, who finished in 8th position in the 2016 Comrades Marathon says her rights were infringed upon. "I think my rights were violated as an athlete ," explains the Nedbank Running Club athlete. "If you look for instance at Irvette Van Zyl, she ran while she was pregnant but why me? It's not like I was running a marathon distance but it was 1 500m and I was going to do it at my pace."

Celi Makhoba, who serves as a KZNA interim Board Member promised to solve the matter once he has obtained all the necessary reports from referee concerned. "I only heard about this news from the media," said Makhoba, who is also a Comrades Marathon board member. "I was not at the Kings Park as we had Comrades Marathon workshop which usually takes the whole day. So I can't point out exactly what made the officials to deny an athlete an opportunity to run. I'll go to the office and ask for all the necessary reports to solve the matter," he promised.

Section 4.4 of World Athletics' rule 142 which governs entries into an event is clear. It states that an athlete may be excluded from competition on the basis of a medical certificate, provided by and based on an examination of the athlete by the Medical Delegate appointed under Rule 6 of the Competition Rules or, if no Medical Delegate has been so appointed, by a medical doctor so designated by the Organisers. This suggests that the onus was on organisers to make sure that Mbuthuma was examined by the official medical delegate of the track meet long before she lined up at the start line. As it was the pregnant runner was only informed at the start line and did not participate even though no doctor confirmed that she was medically unfit to run.

Makhoba believes if Mbuthuma wasn't showing any signs of not doing well and the medical team at the events didn't pick anything wrong with her then she should have been allowed to race. "There is no rule preventing a pregnant woman from running a race," he said

"According to World Athletics rule 142 of entries, whether you entered a track and field, road running, Cross Country or Trail running event, an athlete can only be stopped from running if the medical team assigned by the race organizers have picked that the athlete is unfit to run and then they must notify the referee to not to allow him/her to race. But a referee can't decide on those situations. We have seen a lot of women who ran while pregnant including Irvette Van Zyl so that not a problem at all," said Makhoba.

Mbuthuma she wants to put the ordeal behind her and plans to brush away the to run the KZNA Championship on the 26th of March. "I'm willing to move away from this because I had a meeting in the office and they apologized for that. I'm hoping to run again and hopefully during KZN champs if my body allows," she said.

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