Towards the end of the London 2012 Summer Olympics, the Womens shot put gold medal competition was held. There was New Zealand Valerie Adams, who had lifted gold in the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics and who seemed to be a virtual shoo in for defending her gold medal. Belarussian shot putter Nazheda Ostapchuk had other ideas. But were they proper?
No. Right from the start there looked to be something wrong with Nazheda Ostapchuk. From her behaviour during the medal ceremony to her performances, to her physical appearance. It was obvious something was not quite right.
- Red flag no. 1: First off, and this struck me as odd right from the get go even though I never saw the shotput competition until the gold medal phase, Mrs Ostapchuk looked surprisingly displeased to be on the stage – alternating from very pleased to very angry.
- Red flag no. 2: Never in the history of the discipline has someone been able to suddenly throw their shot more than a metre than they could just a few weeks earlier. But somehow Ms Ostapchuk was able to do this.
- Red flag no. 3: It is not uncommon for women to have bone structures that give them a more masculine appearance. Ms Ostapchuk has long had a similar appearance, which I gave her the benefit of the doubt over.
Alas, she was using Metenolone. This is a banned substance that among other things increases bone structure in terms of density. Ms Ostapchuk was banned and made to hand her medal back to the Olympic Committee. It is a sad indictment on sport that Ms Ostapchuk is far from being alone. Lance Armstrong went on to win the Tour de France on numerous occasions only for it to be found out that he was a systemic drugs cheat. After being stripped of all of his titles and wrecking the lives of several people along the way, American sprinter Marion Jones did jail time after being stung in a drugs racket for not one, but multiple offences.
In New Zealand we have been very fortunate. No athletes have been stripped of medals or given bans because of illegal substances in their system. New Zealand athletes at the Olympics are headed by a competent Olympic Committee that is well regarded overseas.
Sadly I cannot say the same for other nations. Most recently I heard for the first time that Russia has a state sponsored doping scheme for athletes. Whilst Russian athletes are often suspected of being cheats, there are also many athletes who play clean and hard and bring great credit to their country – why should they and their clean performing rivals in other countries suffer the legal consequences because a few of their countrymen have no morals?
How sad. Sport is supposed to be the bastion of humanity’s fittest and finest athletes, not cheats who have degraded themselves, their people and flag by taking substances that artificially alter their performance. What is it saying to young people who are learning right from wrong/fairness from cheating that this is happening. Moreover the fact that one of the biggest participants in the Olympics has a state funded doping programme suggests that a much bigger problem exists than just the athletes who participate. But political tensions and rhetoric are so high and being fanned by dirty geopolitical machinations that any attempt at holding the Russian Government responsible will be seen as an anti-Russian agenda however much it might be true.
How much more damage does sport have to suffer before as a way of life and leisure it comes together and says enough is enough?