Clean Olympians de­serve a proper medal cer­e­mony

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Adam Nel­son re­ceived his Olympic gold medal in the food court at At­lanta’s air­port. Now, let’s give him - and all other clean ath­letes the recog­ni­tion they de­serve. As more star­tling rev­e­la­tions came out Fri­day in the Rus­sian dop­ing scan­dal and an al­most daily lineup of cheat­ing ath­letes are nabbed through im­proved test­ing meth­ods, the International Olympic Com­mit­tee needs to send a sym­bolic but pow­er­ful mes­sage that it will honor those who do things the right way.

No mat­ter how long it takes. Start­ing with the 2018 Win­ter Games in Pyeongchang and the 2020 Sum­mer Games in Tokyo, the IOC should hold of­fi­cial medal cer­e­monies for those ath­letes who were cheated out of their glory be­cause com­peti­tors were tak­ing per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs.

We’re talk­ing about ac­tual cer­e­monies, in the arena or sta­dium where their sport is be­ing held, com­plete with a podium and flow­ers and flags and na­tional an­thems, with thou­sands of fans cheer­ing them on and bil­lions from around the world watch­ing on tele­vi­sion.

For Nel­son, that would mean award­ing him a gold medal in Tokyo that he ac­tu­ally won in the shot put 16 years ear­lier, on the fields of An­cient Olympia at the 2004 Athens Games. It won’t be­gin to make up for what he lost. But it’s a good start.

“Any­thing they could do to rec­og­nize the ath­letes that were robbed of the mo­ment would cer­tainly go a long way to­ward re­pair­ing some of the dam­age that was done,” Nel­son said when reached by phone, not long af­ter the re­lease of a sick­en­ing re­port fur­ther de­tail­ing sys­tem­atic dop­ing in Rus­sia that in­volved more than 1,000 ath­letes across more than 30 sports.

The IOC has taken baby steps to ad­dress this enor­mous stain on fair com­pe­ti­tion, most no­tably stor­ing the dop­ing sam­ples it takes at each Olympics so they can be tested up to 10 years later us­ing en­hanced tech­niques that weren’t avail­able at the time.

Nel­son is one of those who ben­e­fited, but he’s hardly alone. So far, a to­tal of 88 ath­letes from the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics and the 2012 Lon­don Games have turned up pos­i­tive when fur­ther test­ing was con­ducted - more than half of them medal­ists, in­clud­ing five gold medal­ists. The IOC says omi­nously that many more pos­i­tive tests are still ex­pected from the retest­ing of those 4-year-old sam­ples.

DE­SERVE EVEN MORE

All of this has led to a mas­sive re-writ­ing of the of­fi­cial re­sults, and a re­dis­tri­bu­tion of medals to ath­letes who were clean. They de­serve even more. Think of those who ini­tially fin­ished out­side the top three. They were de­nied a chance to step onto the podium, have a medal hung around their neck by a dig­ni­tary, watch proudly as their coun­try’s flag was raised above the arena. Those who re­ceived a be­lated gold lost out on the play­ing of their na­tional an­them, a rit­ual that of­ten brings tears to even the big­gest stars. All of this is eas­ily rec­ti­fied. Bring them to the next Olympics. The IOC has no firm rules gov­ern­ing ex­actly how ath­letes should be awarded their re­as­signed medals. It leaves that up to the na­tional Olympic com­mit­tees, rec­om­mend­ing that they in­vite dig­ni­taries and the me­dia and play the Olympic an­them.

Four Bel­gium women who were bumped up to gold in a 2008 track and field re­lay af­ter the Rus­sian run­ner tested pos­i­tive got a rous­ing cer­e­mony and stand­ing ova­tion from a 40,000strong crowd dur­ing a meet in Brus­sels three months ago.

For others, the medal han­dover wasn’t nearly so glam­orous. Nel­son set­tled for silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics , only to learn more than eight years later than the com­peti­tor who beat him, Yuriy Bilonog of the Ukraine, had been caught dop­ing by a later round of test­ing.

The IOC asked Nel­son to re­turn his silver medal be­fore he re­ceived the gold. Right­fully skep­ti­cal, he re­fused to give up what he had un­til he got what was right­fully his. Fi­nally, in what sounds like a hostage ex­change, an ar­range­ment was made in July 2013 with the US Olympic Com­mit­tee.— AP

BRUS­SELS: In this Sept. 9, 2016, file photo, Bel­gian run­ners Kim Ge­vaert, Elodie Oue­draogo, Olivia Bor­lee and Hanna Marien stand on the podium af­ter re­ceiv­ing the gold medal for the Women’s 4 x 100 me­ters re­lay at the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics dur­ing the Di­a­mond League Memo­rial Van Damme ath­let­ics event at the King Bau­douin sta­dium in Brus­sels. The Bel­gian team, ini­tially win­ning silver, were moved up to gold af­ter one run­ner on the Rus­sian team tested pos­i­tive for a banned sub­stance. — AP

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