Scepticism of Ostapchuk's coach's mea culpa

STACEY KIRK AND MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 10:28 12/09/2012
Fairfax Australia

The coach of Belarus shot-putter, Nadzeya Ostapchuk, who was stripped of her Gold medal after testing positive for doping, has admitted he sprinkled steroids into her meals without her knowledge.

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Nadzeya Ostapchuk and Alyksandr Yefimov
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BETTER TIME: Nadzeya Ostapchuk celebrates with her coach Alyksandr Yefimov after the shot put competition at the London Olympics.

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The coach of disgraced shot put champion Nadzeya Ostapchuk says he doped her food, but the head of New Zealand's anti-doping agency and Valerie Adams' manager say that just doesn't stack up.

"Some people fall on swords to protect others," Drug Free Sport NZ chief executive Graeme Steel said.

Ostapchuk was stripped of her London Olympics gold medal the day of the closing ceremony, after testing positive in two separate drug tests at the games, and New Zealand's Adams was then promoted to the top spot.

Ostapchuk has now handed back her medal after her coach Alyksandr Yefimov admitted to having "dusted her food" with the anabolic steroid metenalone.

But Steel said that while it wasn't impossible, the notion was "hardly credible".

Adams' manager Nick Cowan agreed. He is deeply suspicious of the claims coming out of Belarus, saying the story just doesn't add up.

Yefimov apparently spiked the food just days out from the Olympics, at their Belarusian training base, but Ostapchuk's peak in form started well before that, consistently throwing well over the 21m mark up to two months before the Games.

The improvements were rapid and alarming, and maintained over a sustained period of time, Cowan said.

''There was quite a spike in her performances well before the Olympics,'' Cowan said.

''It just doesn't add up to me. On paper, she was in the best form of her career going into the Olympics, so why the coach would be worried about her results, so much so that he'd spike her food just days out from the competition, it just doesn't add up.''

Said Steel: "He (the coach) could just be saying that. In fact, it's a strong possibility that he could just be saying that.

"It's just an extraordinary thing to have us believe that a coach of a potential gold medal athlete would do that.

"Any coach must know that anything you do has got to stay under the radar, so if you're going to dope you do it in a very controlled and specific way."

Ostapchuk earlier said she was "framed" after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, pointing the finger at a former head athletics coach who was arrested this year by the Belarusian KGB.

But Yefimov has come forward, telling Belarusian news website Charter 97 when Ostapchuk failed to perform in the months leading up to the Olympics, he began dusting her food with the drug.

"I will change my surname from Yefimov to Idiot. I will give you no more comments at this stage," Yefimov said.

However, Ostapchuk reportedly passed a number of tests in the months prior to the Games. It was only the test the day before the shot put final and the night of, that returned positive.

"She was performing very well in the months leading up to the Olympics, and if he had been dusting her food then the earlier tests would have picked it up," Steel said.

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"This won't change the decision at all, in regards to the games. The only way she could reverse that is show the laboratory results were wrong."

Ostapchuk has been handed a more lenient one-year ban from competing in the sport, while Yefimov was banned for four years.

However, Cowan believed the IAAF (international athletics federation) and WADA (world anti-doping agency) would take a stronger view of the cheating.

Would you expect IAAF and WADA to have a different view?

''I'd be very surprised if they imposed the same sort of ban,'' he said.

''The IAAF seems to have set a precedent of two years for these sort of offences so I'd hope they'd have a closer look at it.

''She was on steroids. The precedent is a two-year ban so one year seems unusual but I don't think the IAAF will be reading it the same way.''

When asked by Charter 97 if he denied it, Yefimov said: "I am not saying I deny anything. I am just saying that I will change my surname. Let us wait for the decision of the International Federation and then comment. Then I will say what I said and what I didn't..."

New Zealand Olympics Committee spokeswoman Ashley Abbott would not comment on whether plans were underway to get Adams' gold medal.

"I'm not even going to look at that until this afternoon," she said.

Ostapchuk claimed in the days after she was stripped of her gold medal that she was framed by her coach, and also levelled her own doping allegations against Adams, which were immediately rubbished by officials throughout the international athletics community.

But it was against an earlier coach that Ostapchuk levelled her own doping allegations.

According to Charter 97, Anatoly Baduyev was detained by the KGB in May for extorting money from coaches and athletes by blackmailing them with the threat of positive dope tests.

In the interview with Pressball at the time, translated by Charter 97, Ostapchuk said she was a victim.

''The person [Baduyev], you know who I mean, the one who was involved in blackmail, he promised me long ago: you will have problems with doping control. Now I think his threat begins to come true, even though he no longer works with us.''

In reference to a wider conspiracy Ostapchuk said she would carry out her own investigation of the charges, including the ''participation of the investigating authorities''.

''Anything that will be learned during the investigation will be known to everyone. I have nothing to hide from people. I've spent a lot of efforts to become an Olympic champion, I do not need excuses. I do not want to finish a career like this,'' she said in the interview.

''Athletes need to know that there is someone to rely on, from whom they can receive support and advice. We want to feel protected instead of waiting for meanness from those who should help us.''

The Belarusian government has stood behind Ostapchuk, awarding the Order of the Fatherland Third Class after her Olympic gold win and promising full inquiries into the scandal.

The head of the Belarusian National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) Alexander Vankhadlo told a press conference their investigation was supervised by the International Association of Athletics Federations, reported the Belarussian Telegraph.

"The investigation was difficult. There were a lot of issues. Everyone wanted to know where the banned substance could come from because Ostapchuk was tested 16 times since April, both by international and national anti-doping agencies.

"We conducted additional doping tests, analysed the doping tests taken in London and studied the correlation of the prohibited substance in the first and second London tests. We even tested the staff close to the athlete.

He said throughout the investigation they learnt the drug was given to her by "personnel".

It was then that Yefimov confessed, Vankhadlo said.

Meanwhile, Cowan said he understood the gold medal had been returned and they were awaiting confirmation before announcing plans of a medal ceremony for Adams.

He said an announcement could be made as early as today, but was more likely tomorrow.

As for the prospect of Adams competing against Ostapchuk again, he said: ''Valerie is very, very good at putting things aside, that's what makes her a great athlete so I'd imagine Valerie's fire would be ignited, and she's pretty dangerous in that situation.'' 

- Stuff

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