Now we can say it. Now we know.
Nadzeya Ostapchuk, the 31-year-old Belarussian shot putter who kept New Zealand's Valerie Adams off the top step of the medal podium at the Olympics in London last week, is a drug cheat.
Until somewhere around 10pm on Monday night, we didn't know for sure. Yes, there were suspicions. But it was only on Monday night that the clear evidence emerged. Ostapchuk had tested positive for the steroid metenolone, and been told to return her gold medal, which Adams, back at her training base in Switzerland, will receive in due course.
That seems certain, because it's not a case of just one test we're talking about here. Ostapchuk, who arrived in London on August 4, was tested the next day, a day before the shot put competition, and then the following night, immediately after finishing 66 centimetres clear of Adams' best throw. The International Olympic Committee decision makes it clear that both the A and B samples taken in each test had been analysed and that each sample had returned "an adverse analytical finding".
Of course the Belarussian has reacted with shock and dismay, claiming she'd have to be a "complete idiot" to take a drug as old-fashioned as a steroid, especially so close to competition, and that she had no idea how the drug came to be in her system.
She also hinted at prejudice against Belarussian athletes after hammer thrower Ivan Tsikhan, the silver medallist in Athens eight years ago, had been prevented from competing in London at the request of athletics' global governing body. It followed a retesting of his samples from Athens - the samples are stored for eight years - which reportedly came back positive for banned substances.
The disciplinary commission which heard the case on August 12 questioned a Belarussian Olympic Committee delegation, including a doctor, which acknowledged that "having seen the analytical reports of both the A and B analysis of both the First Sample and of the Second Sample", it "did not doubt such substance was in the body of the athlete", though it could provide no explanation for its presence.
Ostapchuk's chances of overturning this decision seem slim. It would take, it seems, being able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the substance was introduced to her system without her knowledge, a tall order indeed.
Which means Valerie Adams should be able to rest easy in the knowledge that she's a two-time Olympic champion.
- © Fairfax NZ News