An American may not be able to grasp what Tim Noakes means to South Africa since no equivalent to Professor Noakes exists in the U.S. In South Africa, Noakes is a nationally famous exercise scientist and physician who has transformed the practice of sport by challenging most commonly held beliefs. And yet, Noakes’ own university and colleagues, along with the medical establishment, have suddenly turned against him in what he describes as his “final crusade.” Having demolished dogma on subjects as diverse as hydration, motivation and fatigue, Noakes may have gone a step too far. He took on carbs.
On the surface, the Tim Noakes controversy looks like a simple turf war between the renegade scientist and a few South African dietitians. That story goes something like this: in February 2014, the world-renowned exercise physiologist and M.D. tweeted that babies should be weaned onto low-carbohydrate diets. Then Claire Julsing Strydom, the president of South Africa’s dietetics association, ADSA, reported Noakes for unprofessional conduct. Noakes chose to fight back and defend his dietary advice even though he no longer practices medicine and could just as well have given up his license. And finally, after dozens of hours of hearings, South Africa’s council for health professionals will decide whether Noakes will keep his medical license.