Carmelita 'The Jet' Jeter can't fly away from the doping question
Sprint queen returns to action in Glasgow after shattering tainted record in London
Friday 25 January 2013
To aficionados of the global track and field scene, it was one of the definitive moments of London 2012. When Carmelita Jeter crossed the finish line at the end of the women's 4x100m relay final she pointed her baton towards the figures on the trackside clock: 40.82. The Los Angelean and her US team-mates – Tianna Madison, Bianca Knight and Allyson Felix – had not just broken any world record; they had shattered one of the global marks stained by the steroid-fuelled doping regime of the old East Germany.
It had stood at 41.37sec since the 1985 World Cup meeting in Canberra, seemingly put out of touch by Silke Gladisch, Sabine Rieger, Ingrid Auerswald and Marlies Göhr – all suspected of but never proven to be beneficiaries of the state-run steroid machine that was documented in the files of the Stasi, the East German secret police, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. So it was only to be expected that Jeter should be quizzed about the significance of the achievement after jetting in from LA for the British Athletics Glasgow International Match, in which she contests the 60m at the new Emirates Arena this afternoon.
Did the 33-year-old get the feeling that people were happy to see a tainted East German record removed from the record books? "The feeling I got was that people were excited that the USA team was able to come out with the gold medal and the world record," Jeter replied. "I believe it was a great moment for women in sport, that women were stepping up and breaking records. That's what I perceived from the win."
There was an even more emphatic side-step when the second fastest woman of all time (her 10.64sec clocking for 100m stands only behind the late Florence Griffith-Joyner's freaky 10.49sec in the rankings) was asked whether Lance Armstrong's confession had "made it harder to convince people that athletes in other sports were clean?"
"Well, I'm going to stay away from anything with that question, thank you," the woman they call The Jet replied.
The sad reality is that athletics cannot stay away from the effects of doping as the showpiece Olympic sport turns from London 2012 to the future. Those effects can be far-reaching, as the figure sitting a few seats along from Jeter at yesterday's pre-event press conference could readily testify.
Lee McConnell has been waiting for an Olympic bronze medal since February 2010, when the International Olympic Committee announced that "disciplinary proceedings" were being taken against Crystal Cox, who ran in the heats for the ultimately victorious US women's 4x400m relay team at the 2004 Olympics. This came after Cox admitted that at the time of the Athens Games she had been using banned drugs supplied by the Balco factory.
Under the rules of the International Association of Athletics Federations, the US should have been disqualified and the British team – Donna Fraser, Catherine Murphy, Christine Ohuruogu and McConnell – promoted from fourth to the bronze medal position. At a meeting in London last July, however, the IOC announced that Cox had been stripped of her gold medal but delayed a decision about whether to disqualify the US team that competed in the final.
All of which leaves McConnell still without her just reward as she prepares for a rare indoor outing – over 200m today – in the grand new arena in the east end of her home city. "I have absolutely no idea what's going on," the 34-year-old Glaswegian said. "One day hopefully I will see that medal but at the moment I have mixed emotions about the whole thing.
"You've lost that moment of being presented with the medal at the Games. It was eight and a half years ago now. You've been robbed of that moment, which is such a big part of the package. Maybe the importance will sink in if I ever get the medal in my hands. It just seems so far off happening."
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