Sci­ence’s march nets dop­ers, rights Olympic wrongs

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By John Le­ices­ter

Af­ter a ca­reer of ath­letic suc­cess, Kim Ge­vaert re­gret­ted that her kids weren’t born when she was in her prime and didn’t see the sprinter make his­tory at the Bei­jing Olympics. A con­so­la­tion was that the chil­dren were on hand eight years later, when their mother’s his­tory was fi­nally put right. Ge­vaert and her team­mates from Bel­gium’s sprint re­lay squad in 2008 are among the first ben­e­fi­cia­ries of what is quickly be­com­ing the big­gest rewrit­ing of Olympic his­tory. The story, for kids at least, is tricky to grasp, as Ge­vaert dis­cov­ered when she tried ex­plain­ing in Septem­ber to her seven-, five- and three-year olds why a stern­look­ing man in a dark suit had just hung an Olympic gold medal around her neck, even though she re­tired years ago, in a packed Brus­sels sta­dium with an ec­static crowd.

But re­ally, it’s sim­ple: Dozens of medals that drug cheats won in Bei­jing, and again four years later in Lon­don, are find­ing their way to right­ful own­ers, Ge­vaert in­cluded, thanks to an In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee crack­down on dop­ers who es­caped de­tec­tion in 2008 and 2012 but are now be­ing caught by ad­vances in the sci­ence of drug test­ing.

Taken out of stor­age and re­an­a­lyzed, urine sam­ples from those games are now prov­ing pos­i­tive for an­abolic steroids and other banned per­for­mance-en­hancers that labs couldn’t spot at the time. So far, the nearly 1,400 retests have caught 98 ath­letes. Disqual­i­fi­ca­tions started as a drip, with the IOC first an­nounc­ing in June 2015 that open-wa­ter swim­mer Olga Beres­nyeva of Ukraine was be­ing stripped of her sev­enth place in Lon­don be­cause retests found she used the banned blood­booster EPO.

They have since swelled to a tor­rent. In the last four months, af­ter re­an­a­lyz­ing their sam­ples, the IOC has or­dered 17 medal win­ners from Bei­jing — which has now lost more medal­ists to doping than any other games — and nine from Lon­don to hand back their golds, sil­vers and bronzes. More are ex­pected to fol­low as the retest­ing con­tin­ues and ex­pands to sam­ples from the 2014 Sochi Games, the IOC’s med­i­cal di­rec­tor, Richard Bud­gett, told The As­so­ci­ated Press in a phone in­ter­view.

“It’s both a won­der­ful story but a very sad story at the same time,” Bud­gett said. “Be­cause those ath­letes who should have got medals have had to wait an in­cred­i­bly long time.”

“At least, in the end, jus­tice has been done,” he added. “It will be good for the de­ter­rence of fu­ture cheaters.”

Those caught in­clude Yu­lia Cher­moshan­skaya, the an­chor run­ner for Rus­sia in women’s sprint re­lay in Bei­jing. She and her team­mates were stripped of gold af­ter two an­abolic steroids, stanozolol and turin­abol, were found in Cher­moshan­skaya’s urine re­an­a­lyzed this year. Tests can now de­tect if ath­letes used the drugs weeks be­fore com­pet­ing. Pre­vi­ously, the de­tec­tion win­dow was mere days.

That bumped the sil­ver medal­ists — Ge­vaert, Olivia Bor­lee, Hanna Marien and Elodie Oue­draogo — to first place. The first Bel­gian women ever to medal on an Olympic track will never know how they would have felt had they, not the Rus­sians, stood on top of the podium in Bei­jing and heard their an­them play. But they got, al­beit be­lat­edly, the next best thing: a rous­ing cer­e­mony and stand­ing ova­tion at a track meet in Brus­sels’ King Bau­douin Sta­dium on Sept. 9. Ge­vaert’s kids were in the 40,000-strong crowd and saw her and her team­mates, all wear­ing golden tops, be driven around in an open-top vin­tage car and for­mer IOC Pres­i­dent Jac­ques Rogge hang the medals around their necks.

“They were able to be part of a very spe­cial mo­ment in my ca­reer,” Ge­vaert, who re­tired shortly af­ter Bei­jing, said.

“The sta­dium was full, the crowd was very en­thu­si­as­tic,” she added. “They made it a fab­u­lous oc­ca­sion. Even af­ter eight years, it was a mag­i­cal mo­ment.”

The re­al­lo­ca­tion of medals isn’t au­to­matic. To make sure that they’re not hand­ing medals from one doper to an­other, the IOC is also retest­ing the sam­ples of ath­letes who are next in line. Dina Sazanovets, for ex­am­ple, placed fourth in her 69-kilo­gram weightlift­ing cat­e­gory in Lon­don but won’t get the bronze stripped from her Be­laru­sian team­mate Ma­rina Shk­er­mankova, be­cause retests found steroids in both of their sam­ples. The Bel­gian sprint­ers’ sam­ples, on the other hand, were neg­a­tive when retested, Pierre-Olivier Beck­ers-Vieu­jant, head of the Bel­gium Olympic Com­mit­tee, said in a phone in­ter­view. TRI­AN­GLE SPON­SORS Anony­mous, A. Al­port and Sons, Al­ways Mov­ing & Stor­age, Inc., Arold Con­struc­tion Co., Inc., B&B Bagels, Ber­ardi, Gotts­tine & Miller, CPAS’s, Inc., Bin­newa­ter, Black Mt. Golf Club, Catskill Golf Club, Colo­nial Roof­ing and Sid­ing, Hur­ley Mt. Inn, Carey Plumb­ing and Heat­ing, Catskill Hud­son Bank, Com­mit­tee to Elect Philip Kirschner, Com­mit­tee to Elect Nina Pos­tu­pack, D&J Dis­trib­u­tors, Dal­las Hot Wein­ers, Bill DeCicco & Sons, Fran­cis Flynn, CPA, Frank Gui­dos Lit­tle Italy Res­tau­rant, Gil­patrick-VanVliet, Fiends of Mike Hein, Steve Hakim As­set Mgmt. LLC, J&H Tire and Auto Cen­ter/First Place Tire and Auto Cen­ter, JK’s Wine & Liquor, Keyser Funeral & Cre­ma­tion Ser­vices, Lazy Swan Golf Club, Lazy Swan Golf Club, N&S Sup­ply, Inc. Pos­tu­pack Val­u­a­tion, Inc., Mill­brook Golf & Ten­nis Club, Ron­d­out Golf Club, Saratoga Na­tional Golf Club, Santa Fe’ Res­tau­rant, Savonna’s Plaza Pizza, Sch­nei­der’s Jewel­ers, Inc., Scott Dut­ton As­so­ciates, LLC, Spin­newe­ber PFV, In Mem­ory of R. Daniel Teet­sel, Dwight “Ike” Teet­sel and Re­becca J. Teet­sel, Timely Signs, Twaalf­skill Golf Club, Ul­ster Fed­eral Credit Union, Ul­ster Hose Co. #5, WCD Win­dow Cov­er­ings, Wood­stock Golf Club

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