Aphiwe Dyantyi deserves praise, not condemnation

What is the purpose of punishment? Can a sinner ever be forgiven? Should the condemned forever walk this earth as marked men?

After thousands of years, all the religions of the world are still searching for concrete answers to these complicated questions. If only they’d sought the definitive advice of the former Ireland centre Gordan D’Arcy who would have provided short and clear retorts to all of the above.

This week, the three-time European Champions Cup winner with Leinster had a bone to pick in his Irish Times column. The source of his ire was the reception Aphiwe Dyantyi received at Kings Park in Durban as Connacht snatched an impressive one-point victory against the Sharks.

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“What really struck me was that [Dyantyi’s] return was so celebrated by the home crowd and the home broadcaster,” D’Arcy lamented. “Dyantyi did very little of note in the game and yet he was interviewed post-match. Nobody was in the least bit sheepish or ashamed about welcoming back a proven doper.”

It’s true, Dyantyi was found guilty of taking a banned substance shortly after being recognised as World Rugby’s breakthrough player of the year in 2018. It was a shocking blow not only for the player himself, but for South African rugby and its loyal supporters. His introduction to the elite level of the game felt like a supernova, one that exploded with dazzling colours but faded all too suddenly.

Having scored a try on his Super Rugby debut – for the Lions against the Sharks – he repeated the trick in his first Test when he dotted down against England in Siya Kolisi’s first game as Springboks captain. He started the next two Tests as South Africa won the series and was a regular feature in the Rugby Championship that season, scoring five tries in six Tests.

I spoke to him after on the eve of his appearance for the Barbarians against Argentina in Twickenham a few months later. Barely past his 24th birthday, he had that irresistible combination of cockiness and naivety. As if he knew the world was at his feet even though he had no idea where his next step would take him. Already equipped with a trademark celebration, he told me with a toothy smile that he harboured big dreams. That he foresaw himself as a mainstay of a Springboks side that had the potential to conquer the world.

A hamstring injury cruelly ruled him out of contention for the 2019 World Cup but that was merely the jab that preceded a devastating right cross. On 24 August that same year, news broke that he had tested positive for an unspecified illegal substance.

“I want to deny ever taking any prohibited substance, intentionally or negligently, to enhance my performance on the field. I believe in hard work and fair play,” Dyantyi said in a statement. “I have never cheated and never will.”

Aphiwe Dyanti drugs ban
(Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

That’s not how a three-person panel saw it and one of the game’s most exciting prospects was banned for four years.

How did he cope with the…

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Read More: Aphiwe Dyantyi deserves praise, not condemnation 2023-11-24 23:06:54

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