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‘Sport: Greed & Betrayal’ has trouble separating fact from innuendo

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JACK MILNER

It’s not because I believe Joffe is making it all up, but rather because like most conspiracy theorists, he tends to see machinations in every action. At times, he connects the dots on what he believes has happened, rather than what has actually happened. The reader needs to be wary not to be sucked into all the rhetoric.

Having said that, there is no doubt that Joffe is spot on when he claims there is corruption in South African sport. Having spent about 10 years with the South African Press Association (from 1996 to 2006), much of that period as sports editor, we covered a number of stories of theft, corruption, and mismanagement at numerous sporting bodies throughout the country.

For Joffe, the fight arose in the world of rugby, then spread to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), and it grew from there.

Once he started to chip away at corruption in that body, it apparently led to exposure of the rot at other South African sports bodies – netball, athletics, even horseracing.

It reached a point, Joffe says, of no return.

“No-one pushed me into this fight,” he writes. “I had to put on my big boy pants and fight fire with fire. I was now more determined than ever to expose these fat cats, but would have to do it using other platforms and social media.”

Joffe has an opinion about everything, even Oscar Pistorius, not only as an athlete, but as a felon. Some of his theories are interesting, but this is where deductions become conspiracy theory rather than fact.

For example, he writes, “A top South African cyclist called me the same week these drug allegations surfaced and asked if Oscar had a biological passport (an individual electronic record for professional athletes in which biological profiles of doping tests are collated over a period of time).

“Did he know something?” writes Joffe referring to the cyclist. However, the cyclist could have just been asking out of interest. From there, Joffe goes on to talk about the fact that the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport conducted 42 urine tests on paralympic athletes in 2012.

“Was Oscar Pistorius one of them?” he asks. “If not, when was the last time Oscar was tested?”

He discovered that Pistorius fell under the jurisdiction of the International Paralympic Committee and IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations). “The IAAF and drug testing? I guess we don’t want to go there with the whole doping scandal, which brought the sport to its knees in 2015.”

All the innuendo is there but, sadly, the facts are not.

Joffe grew up in Highlands North, attended Fairways Primary School, and then Highlands North Boys’ High School. He won an American Field Scholar scholarship to Switzerland. On his return to South Africa, he studied for a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in journalism and German at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.

He then went to the United States, where he stayed with his sister in Chicago and sent his CV to about 100 media companies, one of which was CNN. He received a response that it was looking for a sports anchor, so he went for the interview in Atlanta. He got the job that, he admits, set him up for life.

Back in South Africa, he had a show on 94.7 Highveld Stereo, and became quite a celebrity in the world of South African sport.

However, the intrigue started when Joffe picked up what he believed to be a conflict of interest between journalist Mark Keohane, based in Western Province, and rugby player Luke Watson, for whom he was acting as an unregistered agent, setting up deals for which he was getting a 7.5% cut.

In his digging into Keohane’s antics, he uncovered more possible dirty dealings and eventually alleged charges of drug abuse and sexual misconduct. It forced Keohane to resign from his post as spokesman for the South African Olympic team ahead of the 2012 London Games.

From there, Joffe progressed into South African rugby, where he picked up conflicts of interests and massive alleged questionable payments in the sport.

As he kept digging, Joffe started to expose layer after layer of alleged corruption and bad faith among local sports administrators. The more he found out, the more he put out there, the more the pressure against him started to build.

Joffe points out that it didn’t take long for the personal attacks to begin, including threats to his life. He was also lambasted with a few anti-Semitic comments, the most vehement of which allegedly came from SuperSport’s Imtiaz Patel.

“Imtiaz Patel had already taken a disliking to me back in 2002, when at the end of a work-related meeting that I had requested after being ‘blocked’ from SuperSport production work, he told me, “You Jews know what to f-ing do,” he wrote. “I left it there, but you never forget.”

At the same meeting, Joffe alleged that Patel ranted about Dr Ali Bacher, whom he felt had previously “done him in for a top job at Cricket SA.

“Amazing, how that relationship all turned around as Bacher got some plum contract work with SuperSport for a series called ‘Ali Bacher in conversation with …’,” wrote Joffe.

As the threats against him continued, Joffe alleges in his book, blogs were set up by other journalists to discredit him. He also believes that his phone was tapped and emails hacked. This might seem far-fetched, but a number of journalists have suffered similar fates.

With lawsuits and death threats coming his way, Joffe secretly left the country and went to the United States.

A number of journalists who know Joffe well say he has some good arguments, but has lost the plot along the way.

The book’s construction, with notes, letters, and emails shoved into the body of the text, doesn’t make for fluid reading. However, it’s an intriguing insight into the world of South African sport, and even if only 50% of the information can be substantiated, it’s clear that sport in this country needs a serious clean out.

  • Jack Milner has been a sports journalist for decades.

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