Boks may face national flag ban at Rugby world Cup

Boks may face national flag ban at Rugby world Cup

Next week’s Rugby World Cup 2023 quarterfinal might see the Springboks playing under a neutral flag and unable to sing the national anthem. Ditto the Proteas at the Cricket World Cup in India which starts on Thursday.

That’s because the South African government has not met a deadline to amend the outdated drug-free sport act to comply with the latest World Anti-Doping Code (Wada) that came into force in 2021. 

The Code is a global policy that is agreed and adopted by both the sports movement and governments from around the world (public authorities).

Fans at the Rugby World Cup 2023 match between South Africa and Scotland at Orange Velodrome on 10 September 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo: Steve Haag / Gallo Images)

Wada’s revised anti-doping code came into effect on 1 January 2021 and all member countries are expected to comply. To date, more than 700 sporting bodies and federations have accepted the new code.

On 23 September 2023, Wada issued a statement confirming that South Africa had not updated its anti-doping code and has fallen foul of Wada’s mandatory compliance requirements and now faces consequences.

If South Africa has not complied fully by 13 October, the first steps of the consequences of non-compliance will start. And one of those consequences is not being allowed to participate under a national flag.

“Wada wishes to update stakeholders regarding the Executive Committee’s decision to endorse 10 recommendations of Wada’s independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC),” a statement by Wada read.

“During its meeting, the Exco asserted non-compliance of three Anti-Doping Organizations (ADOs) with the World Anti-Doping Code (Code).

“The two National Anti-Doping Organisations (Nados) in question are Bermuda and South Africa; and the Major Event Organization (MEO) in question is the Pan American Sports Organization (Panam Sports).

“In the cases of the Bermuda and South Africa Nados, the non-compliance is a result of legislation not in line with the 2021 Code.”

jansen odi markram, World Anti-Doping Code

Aiden Markram of the Proteas. The Proteas will also be impacted by South Africa’s non-compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code. (Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Embarrassing situation

It’s an embarrassing situation for South Africa, especially as the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids) had warned the government and federations of the consequences of non-compliance a year ago.

Saids is an independent body that oversees anti-doping programmes in South Africa. It started the process of drafting a new sports integrity bill in 2022.

Saids held its first formal gathering with sports federations and mother body the South African Sports and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) in Johannesburg on 25 November 2022.

In April 2023, Saids sent out a draft bill to all federations and Sascoc outlining the compliance regulations. They had until 5 May for comments and amendments. After that deadline, Saids reviewed comments and inputs and made changes where appropriate.

A second and final round of consultation was stalled before the draft legislation could be sent to government because Wada would not accept the timelines for promulgation of sports integrity legislation and insisted that government focus on the technical amendments of the existing legislation.

“I have noted the decision by the Wada on Friday, 23 September 2023, that current South African legislation, the South African Drug-Free Sport Amendment Act, 25 of 2006, is not compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code,” Sport Minister Zizi Kodwa said in a statement.

“We have worked tirelessly to amend legislation as recommended by Wada. There has also been input by Wada in working with us to draft Saids’ Amendment Bill, which will now be taken through the South African Constitutional process of finalising a Bill.

“It is disappointing that South Africa has been found to be non-compliant despite this undertaking to pass legislation which meets the World Anti-Doping Code. 

Zizi Kodwa

South Africa’s Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Zizi Kodwa. (Photo by Gallo Images/Frennie Shivambu)

“I would like to reassure athletes, sports federations, and the sports public that the non-compliance finding will not affect drug testing in South African sport. Saids will continue to deliver services that protect clean sport in South Africa

“The South African Government process for promulgating legislation is thorough and comprehensive. Any legislation, including amendments, must meet the muster of the South African Constitution and cannot contradict or nullify any existing laws. 

“I officially communicated with Wada President Witold Bańka on South Africa’s position, and have requested to meet with him urgently.

“South Africa is committed to anti-doping in sport. Saids has done much work to meet the evolving dynamics of compliance in global sport on matters of anti-doping, anti-corruption, governance reforms, child safeguarding and data protection.

“The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture will continue to expend all efforts get the Amendment Bill adopted expeditiously.”

Consequences hitting home

It seems only now, that the threat of being unable to fly South Africa’s flag at major sporting events and other consequences, has the reality of non-compliance hit home.

In reality, nothing changes on an operational level for Saids because it’s a continuation of the good anti-doping work it already does, but the amendments are needed to satisfy the pedantic nature of legal documents.

“The overwhelming majority of the noncompliant findings by Wada of our current act are along the lines of ‘the definition must be updated to reflect the exact wording in the Wada Code’, or some definition or term in the Act is obsolete and no longer used,” Saids chief executive Khalid Galant told Daily Maverick.

“So the noncompliance pertains to the text and has no bearing on the operational ability or jurisdictional mandate of Saids.”

But it must be done, and to change the Act of Parliament requires all federations and Sascoc to approve changes.

South Africa is compelled to comply as a signatory to the International Convention Against Doping in Sport, adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in Paris on 19 October 2005. DM