Drugs scandal tarnishes London's golden glow

TOP RECOGNITION: Valerie Adams has been shortlisted for the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year award.
TOP RECOGNITION: Valerie Adams has been shortlisted for the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year award.

In barely more time than it takes for Usain Bolt to blaze down the track, the golden glow of the London Olympics acquired a tacky tarnish.

The news that Belarusian shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk was to be stripped of her women's shot put gold medal should rightly be celebrated in New Zealand.

The achievement of our own Valerie Adams to win back-to-back golds elevates her into the top echelon of Kiwi Olympians, alongside Peter Snell, Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald, Mark Todd, Danyon Loader, Barbara Kendall and Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell.

Adams became our sixth gold medallist from London and the second high-profile Kiwi Olympic promotion on the medal dais in as many Games. Nick Willis was bumped to 1500m silver well after the Beijing Olympics when his event's winner, Bahrain's Rashid Ramzi, tested positive for the banned blood-boosting substance, Cera.

Yet the episode must be a bittersweet moment for Adams, and for New Zealand. Instead of being able to celebrate her deserved moment of glory in front of a packed stadium, with friends and family watching, Adams was alone in her car in Switzerland when she was told the gold was hers.

"When I got here [to coach Jean-Pierre Egger's house] I burst into tears as his wife opened the door . . . I belted out, ‘We won, we won the gold medal', and I just fell into JP's arms and just shared a moment," Adams said.

"We shared a moment of distress and disappointment on the 6th of August but today we shared a moment of happiness."

The elation and satisfaction was there, but the special moment for Adams - who had a horror Games when she struggled to overcome the ruckus surrounding her omission from the field's starting list - was denied.

I wrote in earlier column that as a nation "we were left looking small" about the bitterness that followed Ostapchuk's initial victory, such was the outcry of suspicion over her performance and appearance.

So when I heard the news yesterday morning, I consumed a sizeable slice of humble pie for breakfast.

Those who immediately accused Ostapchuk of artificial assistance - and, it must be noted, she is protesting her innocence - were able to revel in justification.

But, to recall the words of JFK, "even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouths".

The delight for Adams and her fans is balanced by the despair that a drug scandal has tainted what was a glorious Games.

At the London Olympics, only one other competitor, United States judoka Nick Delpopo, returned a positive drugs test after competing - for traces of marijuana.

Even former World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound admitted only 10 per cent of drug cheats are caught at the Games.

Samples collected during this year's Games will be stored and can be re-analysed for the next eight years, and the IOC is expected to announce results of retested samples from the 2004 Athens Games within the next fortnight.

But the concession that only a handful of cheats fail to prosper inevitably places suspicion on all winners, turning the beauty of success into ugly finger-pointing.

What would our reaction be if Hamish Bond and Eric Murray were accused of cheating to dominate their rivals. Or Mahe Drysdale?

Or Valerie Adams?

Like watching any captivating film, we were willing to suspend disbelief for the 16 days of the Games. The back-stories of gold medallists such as Mo Farah, Im Dong Hyun and Drysdale were inspirational, as were the performances of Bolt, David Rudisha and Ye Shiwen.

What the revelation of Ostapchuk's transgression has done, while righting a wrong, is to again push us agonisingly further away from the joy of sport towards the murky world of doubt and distrust.

Waikato Times