Monday 24 October 2016

Walker Jared Tallent finally gets London 2012 gold after Russian doping scandal

Published 17/06/2016 | 10:31

Jared Tallent of Australia stands with Sergei Kirdyapkin of Russia and Si Tianfeng of China on the Olympics medals podium after the men's 50k race walk competition at London 2012 (AP)
Jared Tallent of Australia stands with Sergei Kirdyapkin of Russia and Si Tianfeng of China on the Olympics medals podium after the men's 50k race walk competition at London 2012 (AP)

Australian race walker Jared Tallent has finally moved up a place to gold medal position on the London Olympics podium - nearly four years late and half a world away.

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Tallent originally won silver for the 50k walk at the 2012 Games, behind Russian Sergei Kirdyapkin. Kirdyapkin later received a three-year ban by the Russian anti-doping agency, though contentiously, the sanction did not cover his Olympic result.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the Russian decision in March, clearing the way for 31-year-old Tallent to upgrade his silver to gold.

"It's a victory for clean sport. Justice has been served," said Tallent, who was presented with the gold medal by International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates in a ceremony held in drizzly rain in front of the Old Treasury Building in Melbourne on Friday.

Coates, who is also president of the Australian Olympic Committee, did not miss a chance to condemn the Russian system.

"Presenting an Olympic medal is always an honour, but more so on this occasion to be part of rectifying, in some way, the massive injustice perpetrated on Jared by a doping cheat and aided by a Russian Anti-Doping Agency and Russian Athletics Federation that were rotten to the core," Coates said at the ceremony.

Coates accused Russia of "playing games with us" over the timing of Kirdyapkin's doping test results and the sanction.

Ironically, or perhaps not, track and field's international governing body was to decide later on Friday whether to restore the Russian track team's eligibility for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August. The IAAF suspended Russia from its global competitions after a World Anti-Doping Agency report in November revealed state-sponsored doping.

"I hope they make the right decision," Tallent said on Friday. "I will be very angry as more athletes will be robbed of medals again and it will tarnish the Games.

"There are athletes in my event in the past who have missed out on medals so I'm very much one of the lucky ones. I feel really sorry and sad for those athletes who have missed out."

Coates did not think the IAAF would lift the ban before the Olympics, saying: "I expect the IAAF will maintain the sanctions against Russia."

Athletic Australia chief Phil Jones agreed, saying earlier: "We would be astonished, given the extent of the systemic doping regime uncovered, if Russia has ... taken all the necessary steps to ensure that they are Wada-code compliant."

The gold medal completes a set for Tallent - he won silver in the 20k race and bronze in the 50k event at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. He will have another chance to add to his total in Rio as a member of the Australian team, along with his younger sister Rachel, whom he coaches.

"I am now the Olympic champion when I stand on the start line at Rio," Tallent said on Friday. "But 1,405 days ago I should have received the medal."

With the medal revisions, China's Si Tianfeng now takes silver and Robert Heffernan of Ireland moves up to bronze.

The belated ceremony for Tallent - complete with the playing of Australia's national anthem and a flag-raising - will never replace what could have been.

"It's definitely a bit hollow that you don't get to stand on the podium at the Olympic Games in front of all the people and spectators who see you compete, you don't get to see the Australian flag go up to the highest point," Tallent said after the CAS decision was published in March.

"That's all been taken away, what comes with being an Olympic champion, I'll never get (that) back."

Press Association

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