Hank McGregor Banned

Wednesday, 31 March 2010 09:28 | Written by  Murray Williams, Chief Reporter, Cape Argus, Independent Newspapers South Africa
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Hank McGregor during the Dunlop Durban World Cup, 2009 Hank McGregor during the Dunlop Durban World Cup, 2009

One of the world's top paddlers is fighting for his 2010 race chances after being banned for a year for repeatedly punching a fellow-competitor at the end of a race.

Hank McGregor is the reigning champion of the the Cape's untra-tough 240km Berg River Canoe Marathon – with five consecutive wins behind him – and multiple champion of a large number of local and international canoeing and surfski races, and also a former canoeing marathon world champion.

A fortnight ago on the Umkomaas Marathon in KwaZulu-Natal, McGregor set out to defend his SA K2 canoeing title in a double canoe with partner Grant van der Walt.

The pair were beaten by just seconds on the first day of the race by another former Berg champion, Jacques Theron, and his partner Piers Cruickshank. But on Day 2 the pair were ahead shortly before the finish line, when Theron’s boat collided with theirs.

Canoeing South Africa president Naas Fischer, a well-known Cape Town attorney, has now reported that a disciplinary committee has since confirmed that after the race “McGregor physically attacked Jacques Theron, one of the winners of the marathon by hitting him with his fists”.

McGregor had pleaded guilty and the CSA Board had imposed the following sentence: “Mr McGregor is suspended from canoeing for a period of 12 months from the date of the incident, six months of which suspension is itself suspended on condition that Mr McGregor enrolls for and satisfactorily completes an Anger Management Course to the satisfaction of CSA”.

The ruling is likely to have a devastating impact on McGregor’s career, as the ruling also includes surfski racing under the International Canoeing Federation banner.

McGregor confirmed this morning that he planned to appeal the sentence and was being represented by attorney and former top paddler Ant Rowan.

In the past 18 months, McGregor won, among other races:

  • 2008 Fenn Cape Point Challenge - 50km
  • 2008 Southern Shamaal PE to East London - 240km
  • 2009 Molokai world surf ski champs - 52km
  • 2009 Investec Mauritius Ocean Classic - 27km
  • 2009 Sporty’s Downwind Dash – 18km
  • 2009 Swartland Canoe Marathon on the Berg River - 90km
  • 2009 Berg River Canoe Marathon - 240km

Statement by Naas Fischer, President of Canoeing South Africa

During September 2009 one of our canoeists was tested at an out of competition testing and it was found that her urine contained a prohibited substance and /or its markers.

During March 2010 an incident occurred after the end of the Umkomaas Marathon where Hank McGregor punched Jacques Theron, one of the eventual winners.

Both events have led to disciplinary hearings being instituted by CSA and questions are now being asked as to whether the same rules of justice have been applied in both instances.

The most commonly asked question is why has the alleged “dope offender” not been named and shamed and why, on the other hand, did I openly identify Hank McGregor as the offender in the Umkomaas matter.

The stated policy of the CSA Board is to be completely transparent in our dealings with the canoeing public and if we had controlled the matter, we would have mentioned the person involved in the anti-doping matter.  The Anti-doping regulations however quite clearly state that the National union is not entitled to name the person involved until such time as that person has been found guilty.  If and when the person is accordingly found guilty, you will immediately be advised.

The next questions that are being asked is why is the anti-doping matter taking so long and is this matter being swept under the carpet and why on the other hand, was Hank’s matter finalized so quickly.

The anti-doping matter is a matter which is being defended by the athlete concerned and who is represented by an attorney.  The CSA disciplinary committee in this matter consists of 2 attorneys of which  one is Ant Rowan who has represented SA on a National level as well as Brendon Thompson, one of our Board Members.  The hearing has lasted for one full day and a 2nd (and hopefully last day) will be set down soon.

This matter will be concluded and there is no question at all of this matter being swept under the carpet.

Let’s now return to Hank McGregor.  Previous Junior World Marathon Champion, previous World Senior Marathon Champion, Duzi winner, Berg winner, winner of virtually every race of any standing in South Africa.  All in all, a canoeing icon.  So why is he being punished?

An incident occurred at the end of the Umkomaas Marathon when Hank apparently repeatedly punched Jacques Theron, one of the eventual winners.  A complaint was lodged by Jacques Theron and CSA convened a disciplinary committee consisting of a Supreme Court Judge, a senior attorney as well as Colin Simpkins, who was nominated by the Gauteng Canoe Union.  Hank pleaded guilty and after extenuating evidence was heard, Hank was effectively banned from canoeing for 6 months.

I have received heated e-mails pleading for Hank to be banned for life and on the other hand I have heard impassioned pleas for Hank to receive  a slap on the wrist for “only punching another canoeist in anger”.

The fact of the matter is that the CSA Board appointed an objective disciplinary committee and after hearing the evidence, they handed down a sentence.

Hank now has the right to appeal against this sentence and if he proceeds with such an appeal, the matter will be heard by 3 persons, all of whom have to have a legal background.  They can then reduce or increase the punishment meted out to Hank, and their decision will be final.

The point is that the CSA Board are dealing with these matters openly and as expeditiously as possible and unfortunately it is impossible to keep everyone happy.

We will however continue to administer the sport to the benefit of the canoeists whom we serve and in doing so will be completely transparent and open.

Regards

Naas Fischer

President

Canoeing South Africa


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