Month: June 2014

How Britain’s sprint relay women were robbed of a place at London 2012

Many of you may remember the controversy concerning the Great Britain women’s 4 x 100 relay team missing qualification for London 2012 and allegations that the then GB head coach Charles van Commenee was, at best, unenthusiastic about the team’s attempts at qualification.
Now, nearly two years later it seems that, due to a retrospective doping ban on an Olympic finalist, they actually did earn a place at their home Games.

The athlete in question is Semoy Hackett, a Trinidadian who reached the final of the 200m in London, and the story starts at the 2011 Trinidad and Tobago National Championships. It was there that Hackett failed a drug test for Methylhexaneamine and earned a retrospective drug suspension that disqualified her nation from 4th place in the 4 x 100 m at the 2011 World Championships. This also had the effect of voiding times that would have helped Trinidad qualify for an Olympic sprint relay place.
After serving a six month suspension she returned in early summer 2012 to qualify for a place at the Olympic Games. In early June she helped her American college, Louisiana State, win the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships but again she tested positive for the same drug.
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Semoy Hackett
This is where things get interesting – in an interview with Baton Rouge newspaper, The Advocate, LSU Coach Dennis Shaver said that the University had told by the NCAA of the failed test in late June.
This may have been too late for the IAAF to set the full disciplinary process into action but it’s possible that Trinidad may have considered voluntarily removing Hackett from the Olympic team or even withdrawing the relay team completely. None of this proved possible as the test findings were only released when it was announced that Louisiana State had been stripped of their title in November 2012. After the announcement it was reported by the Trinidad Athletics Federation and IAAF that they had not yet been advised of the failed test by the NCAA. In this regard, the IAAF were innocent bystanders.

Eventually Trinidad cleared their athlete of any misdemeanour but, on the eve of her competing at the 2013 World Championship, the IAAF appealed the case to the Court of Arbitration of Sport.
The case never actually reached the court as the two parties made an agreement before which resulted in Hackett being banned for 28 months and losing all results since the NCAA meeting.
And if Hackett lost her results then so too do the Trinidad 4 x 100 women’s relay team. Their two best times were set on the same day which now sits in the middle of the period where her results were annulled. The Trinidadians, who originally placed 11th of the 16 qualified relay teams for London 2012, now find themselves with only one valid time and ineligible for Olympic qualification.
So that brings us back to Great Britain’s female sprint relay team who missed London after finishing 17th on the qualifying table. With Trinidad dropping out they move up to 16th and earn a theoretical place at the 2012 Olympics.

All this is probably no comfort to the British sprinters who missed out on a place at a once-in-a-lifetime event but at least they can say they earned a place at the Olympics. Small consolation.


The Chegin Connection

For those of who don’t know of Victor Chegin, here’s a crash course in the man behind one of the most successful dynasties in track and field athletics. Chegin is the head coach at the Centre for Olympic Preparation in Saransk, a city of 300,000 in the Russian Republic of Mordovia. This is one of only two performance centres in the world dedicated to walking and regularly contributes more than half the Russian walkers at major championships. Backed by an annual budget believed to be more than 2 million dollars, Saransk has produced a production line of European, World and Olympic medallists since Irina Stankina won a world title in 1995 in Gothenburg.
Unfortunately there is a dark side to the Russian successes as 16, that’s right 16, of Chegin’s walkers have been banned or suspended for various doping infringements. You can also add a marathon runner to the list. The list as it stands is as follows:

***Update*** 30/07/2014
A 17th walker (18th overall) joined the list of shame today
Stanislav Emelyanov
European champion over 20km in 2010 or so everyone thought. The IAAF have announced that, due to abnormalities on his biological passport, he has been suspended for 2 years and his results have been voided since the day before he won his European title in 2010.

The list of shame

Igor Yerokhin
2008 Olympian who served a suspension between Olympics. Returned to finish 5th at London 2012 but that result was voided when examination of his biological passport showed problems which eventually led to him being given a life ban.
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Tatyana Mineyeva
European U23 champion currently serving a ban for blood doping.

Dementiy Cheparev
World Youth medallist who tested positive for Fenoterol.

Ekaterina Medvedeva
2012 World junior champion currently serving a ban after testing positive for EPO.

Pyotr Bogatyrev
2013 European U23 20km champion banned after bio passport problems.

Irina Yumanova
World Youth medallist suspended after a positive test at this year’s Russian Championships. Awaiting a full hearing.

German Skurygin
Briefly world champion in 1999 until the drug tests came back. Returned in 2003 to win World Championship silver. Died at the age of 45.

Valeriy Borchin
Olympic champion in 2008, World champion in 2009 and 2011. Served a 12 month ban between 2005 and 2006 and was then involved in a bizarre series of events before the Beijing Olympics.
Russian news agency All Sport reported in the week before the Games started that Borchin had failed an out of competition test for EPO. Borchin denied the allegation and the matter was never elaborated on by the Russian authorties.
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Sergey Morozov
Morozov set a time at the 2011 Russian Championships that broke the existing 20 km world best though it was never ratified as a record due to a lack of post-race drug testing. He is currently serving a life ban after twice testing positive for EPO.

Vladimir Kanaykin
World record holder and World Championship medallist over 20 km. Missed Beijing Olympics after testing positive for EPO.

Viktor Burayev
World Championship medallist over 20 km. Missed Beijing Olympics after testing positive for EPO.

Aleksey Voyevodin
Winner of medals at European Championships, World Championships and Olympic Games. Missed Beijing Olympics after testing positive for EPO

Nadezhda Mokeyeva
An 18 year old, one of the world’s top juniors, suspended after a positive test at this year’s Russian Championships. Awaiting a full hearing.

Tatyana Akulinushkina
19 years old. Recently completed a ban for Fenoterol.

Artur Grigoryev
Currently serving a ban for Carphedon.

Yelena Lashamanova
The undisputed star of women’s race walking at the current time. This weekend it was announced that the current world and Olympic champion had tested positive for the experimental drug GW501516. After promising results in medical tests research on GW1516 was abandoned after it was discovered to cause cancerous tumours in rodents.
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And the odd man out.
Not a walker but a marathon runner.
Mikhail Lemaev
Marathon runner who competed at the 2009 World Championships. Another who was banned after analysis of his biological passport.

It has to be said that no evidence directly linking Chegin to any doping programme has ever been published although many top name coaches and competitors have expressed extreme distrust. Olympic medallist Jared Tallent of Australia has directly called on the IAAF to ban him and that feeling is by no means unique in the walking community. In theory the proposed changes in the WADA code for 2015 could make a suspension of a coach easier to happen but, of course, they have to prove that he is the mastermind behind the doping programme or at least neglectful in his duties to his athletes. Perhaps we’re being unfair to Chegin, maybe he’s not the cynical manipulator many believe to him to be but, at the very least, answers have to be given as to why so many of the charges have turned to the dark side of the sport.

With thanks to Jared Tallent and Steven Mils for alerting me to the rogues gallery.