Thursday 23 February 2017

Irish race walker Heffernan to receive London 2012 medal over Russian doping

Rob Heffernan was promoted from fourth to third in the 50-km walk
Rob Heffernan was promoted from fourth to third in the 50-km walk

Russia's loss was Ireland's gain as long-distance race walker Rob Heffernan celebrated a London 2012 Olympic bronze medal on Thursday.

Gold medallist Sergey Kirdyapkin was one of six athletes whose punishment imposed by Russia's anti-doping agency was converted into a more telling results disqualification when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld an IAAF appeal.

And Russia's latest athletics embarrassment meant 38-year-old Heffernan, in training for Rio 2016, will be promoted from fourth place to third in the 50-kilometre walk. It will make him Ireland's sixth medallist from the 2012 Games.

Heffernan told Irish radio station Today FM: "I'm buzzing. I got a generic email off the Court of Arbitration for Sport (containing the judgment).

"I had to read it a few times just in case I made a mistake. That makes me an Olympic bronze medallist and it's unreal.

"It's been dragging on and people in Cork have been coming up and congratulating me on being a new Olympic medallist. A lot of people were congratulating me on the gold and I never bothered correcting them.

"I was half living the lie. I was trying to believe it myself. Now that it's made official, I didn't know how I'd feel about it. I'm delighted, I'm over the moon.

"It's something that as long as I've been doing sport and as a kid I've been dreaming of, winning an Olympic medal, and now to have one it's hard to take in."

Gold will go to Australian Jared Tallent and silver to China's Si Tianfeng.

Tallent wrote on Twitter: "History has been rewritten.... I am Olympic champion!"

The IAAF will begin the process of reallocating two World Championship gold medals as well as Olympic medals following the CAS verdict. The IOC will formally redistribute the Olympic medals.

Athletics' world governing body went to CAS with its concerns that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) had failed to correctly apply World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules when disqualifying results of six Russian athletes who failed drugs tests.

Kirdyapkin was originally allowed to keep his London 2012 Olympic gold medal in the 50-kilometre walk, Sergey Bakulin kept his 2011 World Championship gold in the same event, and Yuliya Zaripova was not stripped of her 2011 World Championship steeplechase gold.

Olga Kaniskina had also been able to keep her 2012 Olympics silver medal in the 20km walk.

The medals will now be taken away from the Russian athletes.

The IAAF said in a statement: "The IAAF will immediately proceed to the effective disqualification of results, re-rankings and reallocation of medals in all competitions under its control.

"With respect to the Olympic Games, the IAAF will inform the International Olympic Committee of the CAS decisions and request the disqualification of results and the reallocation of medals."

The IAAF questioned the "selective" disqualification of results and saw CAS support its case.

Each athlete had seen their anti-doping case come to light due to irregularities in their biological passports.

CAS announced in a statement: "The IAAF challenged what it felt was a 'selective' disqualification of results, submitting that all results achieved by the athletes from the date of their first abnormal sample to the date they accepted a provisional suspension should be disqualified.

"In each case, the appeal filed by the IAAF has been upheld and the decision issued by the disciplinary anti-doping committee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency for each athlete has been modified."

The IAAF added: "The IAAF considered this as an important point of principal in the context of the athlete biological passport and is pleased to see that the CAS panel has taken the strongest possible line and made a strict and full application of IAAF rules, in the interest of clean athletes and sport justice."

Kirdyapkin sees his competitive results from August 20 2009 to October 15 2012 wiped from the record books, with Bakulin losing his results from February 25 2011 to December 24 2012, Kaniskina from August 15 2009 to October 15 2012, Valeriy Borchin from August 14 to October 15 2012, Vladimir Kanaikin from February 25 2011 to December 17 2012, and Zaripova from July 20 2011 to July 25 2013.

Kanaikin had been handed a life ban by RUSADA, but CAS replaced that with an eight-year suspension, it announced.

Russia could be banned from the Rio Olympics over the doping scandal and state-sponsored corruption that have engulfed the sport in the country.

Press Association

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