19 April, 2015

Follow-up on the “cheating bitches” post

In the blog post inspired by Kelly Sotherton’s twitter, I was commenting on the fact that Chernova was the one who denied Sotherton a bronze medal in the Beijing, 2008, Olympics. Chernova’s results were retroactively annulled from 15 August 2009 to 14 August 2011, too late for this to have an effect on the 2008 results.

However, another British athlete was most unhappy about how Chernova’s ban was handled. Jessica Ennis-Hill,

the London, 2012, heptathlon Olympic champion, was beaten by Chernova in the Daegu, 2011 World championships who were held just two weeks after the end of the retroactive cancelling of Chernova’s results. Moreover Chernova has been banned, again retroactively, from 22 July 2013 which means that she can, in principle, participate at the 2015 World Championships and the 2016, Rio de Janeiro, Olympics.

Ennis has trouble understanding this decision and has asked the IAAF to reconsider the matter.

“I am hoping they will revisit Daegu because I can’t understand how that is fair. Steroids can have an effect on your body for years. It’s so frustrating, although frustration isn’t a strong enough word, because you train hard for all those years and then people do things like that. It doesn’t seem like Chernova has served a ban."

she said, adding,

“We need to be really strict and harsh. If you are cheating, you’re out. I don’t think you should be allowed to come back and keep your medals.”

My bet is that Chernova will be allowed to participate at the Rio Olympics. The only person, banned for doping issues, who was expelled from the Games was Katerina Thanou. For well known cheaters like Gatlin the Olympic red carpet is repeatedly unfolded. So, why not for Chernova?

17 April, 2015

Fallout from the Gatlin article

While researching for the latest Gatlin article I fell upon two most interesting blogs and I thought I could share them with you. The first is the swiftgirl blog (by Louise Caraher) 

She is the one who wrote the limerick on Gatlin. On her twitter page there are more of those (of better taste than the “javelin” one) along with plenty of photos of Louise. They are worth a visit there. (Don’t ask what the “they” refers to). 

On a more serious tone we have the article by Chris Lambert “Why I despise Justin Gatlin”. You can read the full text in his blog, Lamb's English.

Chris lambert was, at the beginning of the ‘oughts one of the most promising young sprinters. He did participate at the Athens, 2004, Olympics. Unfortunately he never managed to attain the level to which he was promised due to recurring injuries. His article on Gatlin is worth reading. He explains why he moved from sheer admiration of Gatlin to plain loathing. 

In Lambert’s words (with a minimal editing):

“When Gatlin beat Asafa Powell in the 100m final in Athens, he had expected that he would become the top dog. He felt it was his right, that he was owed it. He was unapologetic in his drug abuse, self-righteous, because he refused to believe that anyone should be running faster than him. Gatlin felt that he deserved to be the best. He felt that it was his rightful place.

What’s even worse about Gatlin is that he’s still at it and still self-righteously so. The whole time he has maintained the belief that he is owed something by the sport; that he has the right to be at the head of the top table. For this belief, he sold out a talent that most athletes can only dream of having.”

But the part of his article I enjoyed most was the one on Dwain Chambers. Again in Lambert’s words:

“Chambers cheated, not to go from 10.2 to 9.9, not even to go from 9.9 to 9.8, but to go from 9.9 to 9.8 now, because someone else was doing it now. He wanted what they had and he wanted it now. For Chambers that person was embodied by Maurice Greene, a man with unfailing consistency at the top level. I never really believed in Greene as a clean athlete, but that’s beside the by. I remember watching Chambers beat him to win the Crystal Palace GP around the time he was busted for injecting himself with stuff he didn’t even understand. The clock broke and displayed 9.5, but instead of knowing the clock had obviously broken, he stormed off on a rampage, celebrating wildly. He believed it was possible that he’d gone from 9.9 to 9.5 basically overnight. That is what he had wanted. At that moment I knew he was a cheat.”

I appreciated greatly Lambert’s thoughtful articles and I am sure I will come back to them for inspiration for a post I am itching to write for quite some time now.

10 April, 2015

I could not resist the temptation

While researching for my recent Gatlin post I ended up in Kelly Sotherton’s twitter page and there I discovered this small gem. I could not resist the temptation to reproduce it here.

Kelly Sotherton an Olympic and World bronze medalist in heptathlon, as well as Commonwealth champion, is particularly vocal when it comes to doping matters. The best known case was that of the Beijing, 2008, Olympic games where Sotherton narrowly missed a medal. Lyudmila Blonska took second place after having served a two years ban in 2003 for failing a drugs test. Sotherton denounced Blonska, who came to Beijing with the best score among all the competitors, after the Ukrainian beat her to the silver medal in the world championships in 2007 year in Japan, where Sotherton came third. Dr Arne Ljungqvist (of the University of Umea, Sweden) was commenting:

Under current anti-doping rules, Blonska would have received a four year ban from 2003 until 2007 and then would have been barred from the following Olympic Games in 2008. However, when she tested positive there was a more lax regime and she received a two-year ban from athletics and no ban from the Olympic Games. Blonska may still be benefiting from stanozolol even though she took it five years ago. The benefits of steroids last for at least four years according to current scientific evidence. This could explain why Blonska had improved since coming back from her drug ban.

Blonska tested positive in Beijing, was stripped of her silver medal and was given a lifetime ban. (If a lifetime was OK for Blonska how come double-offender Gatlin got away with a tap on the hand?).

Kelly Sotherton, unfortunately, could not profit from this disqualification, in order to gain access to a medal. She was blocked from the third place by Tatyana Chernova. And now comes the explanation of the “cheating bitches” thing. A sample taken from Chernova at the 2009 World Championships tested positive for a banned steroid. As a consequence she was banned and her results annulled from 15 August 2009 to 14 August 2011. Had Chernova been caught earlier, Sotherton would have won that precious Beijing medal.

And just a few more words from Sotherton:

Blonska, in the time she was banned she had a baby, so she put her body through that and then came back and performed out of her skin. When you compete against people who have failed drugs tests, and then they carry on improving when they're supposed to be clean you ask yourself how can that be possible? I would support a four-year ban or a life ban (for testing positive rather than missing a test).

I totally agree that missing a test cannot be judged as severely as testing positive. Still Thanou was expelled from the 2008 Olympics for just that reason while our well-known two-time offender went on, in 2012, to add a bronze medal to his 2004 gold one.

01 April, 2015

Gatlin in the limelight (again)

I should have know better when I wrote the second blog entry on Gatlin, Never say never: the Gatlin affair,  (the first one was Gatlin is, alas, still running). Gatlin managed once more to come in the limelight. This time it was because Nike decided to award him a sponsorship for this year.

Those who follow my blog know very well my position on doping. I was writing in the first Gatlin-related post

I do appreciate all athletes, even the ones who use performance-enhancing substances, because I know by first hand experience the enormous amount of work necessary in order to attain a certain level in any sport. Doping is something that some athletes resort to in order to surpass themselves. This is a proof of human weakness and, while it is something punishable under the current rules, it does not justify the ostracism of the athlete. 

However the case of Gatlin is special. In 2001 he was banned for two years after testing positive for amphetamines, a ban reduced to one year, the offense attributed to putative health reasons. Despite the warning that a repetition of a doping offense would result in a life ban when Gatlin tested positive to "testosterone or its precursor” in 2006 he was banned for eight years and in 2008 the ban was reduced to just four years. So, instead of being banned for life, starting from 2010, Gatlin was allowed to compete and went on to win several global medals. In 2014, profiting from the absence of Bolt, he obtained the best results for a male sprinter and was nominated for the World Athlete of the Year Award. This caused a wave of reactions from world and olympic champions, including IAAF vice-president S. Coe. (As I wrote in this blog, one can wonder why Sir Sebastian had let the nomination of Gatlin slip past, but this is but one of the mysteries of the IAAF).

So Gatlin, who should have been banned from athletics for life since 2006 is not only allowed to run and heap rewards but will now receive a juicy sponsorship from Nike. Curiously there are no american (US) reactions to Gatlin’s complaisant treatment, at least not that I am aware of. On the other hand the voices in Great Britain have made themselves heard over the internet. 

Olympic bronze medal-winning heptathlete Kelly Sotherton wrote on Twitter:

Jenny Meadows, the British 800m runner who has been cheated out of several medals during her career because of dopers, said:

And the great Paula Radcliffe, Marathon world champion and world record holder twitted:

Louise (@Swift__Girl on twitter) has published a limerick on Gatlin. Here it is:

Although the javelin solution appears a bit extreme one can wonder for how longer will Gatlin continue giving the bad example. For the time being, Gatlin is, alas, still running.