The 2018 Ladies Comrades Marathon winner Ann Ashworth took to Twitter and mainstream media recently in an attempt to highlight Athletics South Africa’s (ASA) shortcomings and incompetence. The federation didn’t like her accusations and they are now attempting to bully her with what amount to less than hazy charges.
On top of this, the ultra-distance athlete has now turned down an invitation to represent South African at the 100 Kilometres Championships in Croatia in two months time.
Ann Ashworth Won’t Represent SA
Ann Ashworth tweeted: “Thanks ASA but until you actually start doing something to assist road runners in our country with funding and other support I’m not happy to compete in South African colours.”
The advocate went on radio and used social media to express her unhappiness with ASA. She is clearly placing her principles and beliefs first by boldly rejecting a national call-up and standing on behalf of other athletics who are scared to challenge ASA.
ASA Swings Back With Accusations & Charges
ASA came out swinging hard with the intention to get Ashworth in line with lambasted disciplinary action that could see her being stripped of her crown. They would also like to have her banned from running due to alleged cheating while running the Comrades Marathon.
The federation is laying three charges against the outspoken runner although these amount to nine “accusations” that include an additional two alternative charges.
Ultimately, they claim that Ann Ashworth has brought the sport into disrepute and has violated the license rule. Just in case she did actually have a valid license they are claiming that she breached ASA’s selection and pacing policies after she apparently ran alongside her husband in an endeavour to get assistance.
I married my best friend and training partner. I am not going to apologise for sharing the same road with my husband. He runs with me almost every single day. His size offers no protection or other advantages against 2200 other runners at the start. There was no pacing.
Ann Ashworth Will Defend Herself Against All Charges
According to David Isaacson of Times Live, Ann Ashworth said she will be strongly defending all charges which are purely an attempt to bully and intimidate her to keep quiet like all the other athletics.
Another controversial issue is that she started a campaign called Stand Up in order to generate support and funds for road runners in disadvantaged parts of South Africa by wearing a black armband at upcoming races. Despite not doing much for road runners ASA is offended by the campaign.
Without criticising the federation, most of those chosen to represent the South African women’s team at the 100 Kilometres Championships turned down the call-up quickly. Ashworth is not a Disney princess and she decided to take a stand. She said if anything is to change, athletes need to stand and be counted.
Support for Ann Ashworth
One of the best ultra-distance trail runners in the world, Ryan Sandes is standing by Ann Ashworth. Sandes said ASA is using bully tactics to threaten the advocate and that is why he feels there is no place for them in trail running. “I would never attempt to qualify for the Trail Run Championship managed by ASA,” he said.
ASA has actively sought to limit private funding of clubs and to channel funding towards the federation which is a step too far according to Ashworth.
KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA) under the current President of ASA Aleck Skhosana was declared to be bankrupt with strong allegations such as fraud, corruption and mismanagement. Yet Skhosana still managed to win votes so he could continue to lead ASA.
Josia Thungwane, marathon legend and South Africa’s first black Olympics Gold Medallist, agrees with Ashworth that ASA is doing nothing for road runners. He said: “It is international races where I am recognised and invited. Not here at home. They don’t care here at home. It is like they don’t even know me.”
Ann Ashworth has made a lot of sacrifices as a road runner. In an interview with Runners World, she said that is has been a difficult journey for her in the last two years. She had to give up a stable job, retrain as an advocate, and go without a salary for 15 months. Her mother and friends gave her loans so that she could pay her bills.
Camille Herron, the 2017 Comrades Marathon ladies winner from the United States of America, said she also supports Ashworth as there are many of them around the world fighting the same battle with their federations.
We have zero individual support from the USA Track and Field because we are not an Olympic event. Zero to partial funding for teams. Being a vocal athlete leader within the organisation helped us get more funding. I hope ASA is listening.