x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Powerboater Nadir bin Hendi's struggle to clear a tarnished reputation

The Emirati world champion has fought for years to prove his innocence since he was banned from the sport in 2011 for a failed drug test, writes Paul Radley .

Nadir bin Hendi enjoyed much success as a throttleman before his suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.
Nadir bin Hendi enjoyed much success as a throttleman before his suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

Nadir bin Hendi is one of those rare sporting beasts: an Emirati world champion.

As the throttleman for Dubai's Victory team, he was a serial winner in Class 1 powerboating.

With four world titles to his name up until 2011, he should rank among the most revered of UAE sportsmen.

And then at the end of 2011, everything changed. A random dope test taken during competition returned evidence of the banned stimulant Methylhexaneamine, and he was provisionally banned for two years from the sport.

Bin Hendi was stunned and said he would "fight till my last breath" to prove clear his name.

He believed the positive test emanated from his protracted use of a nasal spray called Xylo Comod he used over a number of years to aid his breathing after breaking his nose, and set about proving it.

The 43-year-old racer has gone to extraordinary lengths to attempt to prove his innocence.

His quest has taken him all over the world, to leading analytical laboratories in Europe and American, involved Nobel Prize-winning scientists, as well as an eminent lawyer well versed in such cases.

He estimates he has spent around Dh1million on the process, a large slice of which went on paying a volunteer to undergo 21 days using the nasal spray to see at which point Methylhexaneamine began to be produced in the body.

His bid failed, though, when the Union Internationale Motonautique, the governing body of powerboating, published a brief statement on their website last September saying his two-year ban had been upheld after the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed his case.

With 10 months still to run on his suspension, Bin Hendi acknowledges life is very different now.

He admits his achievements, both past and hopefully future, will forever be sullied by his positive test in the minds of many, who he says regard him as "a criminal" and "a druggy".

Here he explains to The National what is like for a sportsman to bear the stigma of a failed dope test, and his hopes that he will one day find redemption.

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My life has changed big time over the past 14 months or so. Once something like this happens, people start viewing you as if you are a criminal.

Emotionally it is very tough, for me, for my family, my wife, my kids, mother, brother. It is very hard. Going to the race venues and not being able to race affects you.

It changed my career, it changed my lifestyle. My mentality changed. But sometimes things happen in life and you can't alter it.

God does things for a reason, and maybe my future will be better. I am still with the team and I still want to race, hopefully, when the ban is over in November.

I could have been back racing by now as I was offered a chance to compromise, to say the stimulant for which the positive test occurred was found in an energy drink and I did not know about it.

But that was not the truth.

When you have not done something you have no call to lie about it. I would not say I had taken an energy drink because it is not correct.

I knew it was the nasal spray because I had been using it for a long, long time. I would not say I had taken an energy drink so I could get back in the boat again sooner.

Lying is not in my ethics.

I was so addicted to the nasal spray. I had one in my pocket, in my car, in my office, in my bedroom, in my locker.

Every two hours I had to have three or four puffs just so I could breathe.

You are only supposed to use the spray for five to 10 days - not seven years as I did.

As soon as I realised this substance had caused it, I had to have the operation straight away. Thank God, I am doing fine now without it.

People will not believe you no matter what you say. They will always think you have done something wrong.

The stigma you suffer as a result of a positive test is hard to endure. People at the sports club, for example, look at you like you are a criminal.

They think once you are banned you have done something wrong -and they think you have done this your entire career.

Sacrifice

I have never done anything wrong. Everything I achieved was through hard work, spending hours training at Evolve gym in Dubai with my trainer Dan Harrison.

I trained hard for six years, ate the right foods. You suffer so much and then within the blink of an eye it all goes down the drain.

They think all your success came from drugs, not all the hard work and sacrifice you made.

You sacrifice time with your family, training rather than spending time with your kids.

Train for two hours, then go to the beach and practise for two hours.

By the time you come home in the evening you are dead.

You eat your food and just go to bed. Then you repeat the whole process again the next day. You jeopardise what you have with your family because you are chasing success in your sport.

People do not see this, they do not see what a sportsman has to go through to be a champion, to win world titles.

I hope to get back to racing in October, but still it won't be like it used to be before.

I will always have this hanging over me.

I say to myself: Is it worth it, to go through all this again?

But you have to take losing in the same way as your do the triumphs.

That is what makes a sportsman - winning with good will, and losing with good grace, too.

Awareness

Now the new guys are coming in the team, I am sharing my knowledge, trying to educate on anti-doping.

Before, when I was racing with the Victory team, I never knew there was something like a TUE (therapeutic use exemption) form.

I never thought about it. I was clean, and you never think that you could take a cough medicine and the next day you will test positive.

They need to be educated how to deal with these matters professionally.

They do not know what it is. They see that you are banned and call you a druggy. They do not understand.

In the UAE, the culture is very sensitive. People think I was on drugs.

There is no awareness here of anti-doping. We do not have the mentality to go out there and educate people on this issue.

People prefer to point fingers and catch people out, rather than help them learn. I never even knew what Methylhexaneamine was before this. I could not even pronounce it at first. Unfortunately the athletes here do not know anything about things like this.

If people want to race and be professional, our federation need to educate them - as they do in Europe and elsewhere. When this happened, it took us one week just for people from the anti-doping authorities to answer their telephone to us.

We need to educate young sportsmen more on this. This is really lacking in the Emirates, and people at the top have to fix it. If they don't, it will become a major problem in the future.

 

pradley@thenational.ae