On Tuesday, South Africa filed an appeal against a decision made by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that had put their rugby team’s participation in this weekend’s World Cup quarter-final against France at risk of not being able to display their national flag. Sport Minister Zizi Kodwa explained that this appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland, is aimed at preventing the negative consequences of WADA’s decision and avoiding a significant embarrassment for the defending World Cup champions.

WADA later confirmed that South Africa would be allowed to display their flag until CAS formally hears the case, effectively defusing the controversy temporarily. WADA stated that the allegation of non-compliance is temporarily suspended, and the consequences will not be enforced until CAS issues its ruling.

South Africa had been given a deadline until Friday to update its anti-doping regulations to comply with the new WADA rules, but they were likely to miss this deadline. Failure to meet this deadline would have resulted in a ban on the Springboks from displaying their national flag and playing the national anthem during their match against the host nation in Paris on Sunday, affecting the South African cricket team at the Cricket World Cup as well.

Sport Minister Kodwa expressed confidence in the strength of the grounds for the appeal and argued that the sanctions, particularly regarding the display of the national flag, had caused unnecessary panic and unfairly penalized athletes and players. The appeal was filed by the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (Saids), an independent body responsible for anti-doping efforts in South Africa.

The new WADA code had been in effect since 2021, and South Africa and Bermuda were the only countries that had not yet updated their regulations to comply with it, according to WADA. The situation drew strong criticism from SA Rugby boss Mark Alexander, who blamed the government for failing to enact new legislation despite prior notice.

Minister Kodwa mentioned that he had presented the necessary regulation changes to the cabinet the previous week and had requested expedited parliamentary approval for the bill, expressing confidence that WADA would acknowledge these efforts as a commitment to passing the amended legislation and suspending the non-compliance declaration.

South Africa’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, expressed relief that the Springboks would likely be able to display their flag during the upcoming weekend.

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