London 2012 Olympics: Belarusian shot-putter Nadzeya Ostaphchuk stripped of gold medal after dope test
BRITISH discus thrower Brett Morse would be forgiven for saying ‘told you so’ following the news yesterday that female shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk had been stripped of her gold medal just hours after the Olympic Games had finished.
The International Olympic Committee announced yesterday that Ostapchuk, from Belarus, had tested positive for steroids both before and after winning the shot put last week for her first Olympic gold. It is the first case of an athlete losing a medal for doping at the London Games and the announcement means the gold medal has now been awarded to Valerie Adams of New Zealand.
The news will have been of considerable interest to Morse because the discus thrower courted controversy at the Games last week when he accused Ostapchuk of doping. He made the claim after he failed to qualify for the discus final and also tweeted: “I’ve had a bad day but it could be worse, I could look like Ostaptchuk [sic].”
Morse was told to remove the comments last Tuesday, and on the Wednesday afternoon apologised on his Twitter account, saying he had been “joking around and thought it was harmless”.
He added at the time: “It was very stupid and immature on my part... being an Olympian means a lot to me and I should know a lot better than to make accusations and stupid remarks about a fellow athlete. So once again sorry.”
Morse’s agent, retired athlete Jamie Baulch had told the athlete to remove the offending comments. “He’ll be more careful in future. This is a tough lesson for him,” Baulch told the BBC last week. “He’s very upset and disappointed in himself.”
After an IOC hearing, Ostapchuk was formally expelled from the Games and had her victory and medal removed from the records. She was the eighth athlete, and first medallist, caught during the IOC’s London drug-testing programme.
“Catching cheats like this sends a message to all those who dope that we will catch them,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams. Track and field’s governing body, the IAAF, will consider further action against Ostapchuk, who could face a two-year ban from the sport.
Adams was bumped up from Olympic silver to gold, with Evgeniia Kolodko of Russia upgraded to silver and fourth-place finisher Gong Lijiao of China moving up to bronze.
Adams now has a second gold to go with her victory in Beijing four years ago. “I am speechless with this news,” she told New Zealand’s national broadcaster TVNZ from her base in Switzerland. “It is taking me some time to take this in. It is huge and I am absolutely thrilled of course. It makes me extraordinarily proud as a New Zealander.
“It is also encouraging for those athletes, like myself, who are proud to compete cleanly, that the system works and doping cheats are caught.”
Adams’ New Zealand teammates were ecstatic when they learned she would get the gold after all. “Everyone cried – it was pretty emotional,” said Annalie Longo, a member of the women’s football team, as she left the athletes village yesterday. “We’re just so happy, she worked so hard and she totally deserved the gold medal.”
She expressed regret that Adams had not been able to receive the gold medal at the victory ceremony.
“We feel cheated in a way, not being able to play the anthem and having taken the moment off her,” Longo said.
The IOC took more than 5,000 urine and blood samples in London, including no-notice controls conducted outside competition. Until the shot put case, the Games were set to end with medal standings in all 302 events unaltered by doping scandals.
The 31-year-old Ostapchuk, world champion in 2005, recorded the biggest shot put mark in a decade in the lead-up to the Olympics. She won the gold with a mark of 21.36 metres.
The IOC said she tested positive for the steroid metenolone on 5 August, a day before her competition, and immediately after she won the event. The ‘A’ and the backup ‘B’ samples from both tests came back positive.
Ostapchuk told media in Belarus that she had done nothing wrong. “I do not understand where it could come from,” she said. “I’m looking like an idiot to take this in heading for the Games and knowing that it is so easy to be tested. Nonsense. I’m being tested every month, every week.
“I hope for the better. The most important for me is to clear my reputation. I’ve been in the sports for so many years and have never faced any claims. And now at the major event and after the gold medal .... I do not understand it.”
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