Relay girls aim to be our first medallists of 2012... even before the Games start
Sunday 13 May 2012
Charles van Commenee, the head coach of the British athletics team, has set his charges a target of eight medals at the looming home Olympics.
The Dutchman also wants a British medal before the Games begin on 27 July – or, to be precise, one of them for each member of the GB team that took part in the final of the women's4 x 400m relay at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
The GB quartet of Donna Fraser, Catherine Murphy, Christine Ohuruogu and Lee McConnell finished fourth in that race eight years ago but have been waiting to be upgraded to the bronze medal position since the revelation in January 2010 that a member of the gold medal winning United States squad had been using banned drugs at the time of the Athens Games. After being confronted by evidence unearthed in the Balco drugs investigation, Crystal Cox admitted that she used steroids manufactured by the Californian laboratory between 2001 and 2004.
Cox did not run in the 4 x 400m relay final in Athens but her performance in the heats helped the USA to qualify. Under the rules of the International Association of Athletics Federations, the official results should have been revised, stripping the United States of their gold medals and upgrading the British team to the bronze medal position. As the US Anti-Doping Agency declared at the time: "All of Cox's competitive results will be disqualified, including forfeitureof all medals, points and prizes since 3 November, 2001."
The International Olympic Committee announced in February 2010 that "disciplinary proceedings" were being launched, but two years and three months later the original result of the race still stands on the IOC website and the British athletes are still waiting for their medals.
Van Commenee is not impressed with the delay. "If athletes were as slow as the authorities, medals – or possibly even winning in sport – would become irrelevant," he said. "It's sad enough that athletes have been robbed of the excitement of the moment of glory. Let's at least present them with the medals in a respectful manner, medals that are truly theirs." Fraser is 39 now and has been retired from international
athletics since 2009 (although she is still competing at club level and has not ruled out the possibility of challenging for a place on the 2012 Olympic team). A south Londoner, she would like to see the medals presented in front of a home crowd in the London Olympic arena this summer. "That would be perfect timing," the Croydon Harrier said. "It would be just fantastic."
The IOC, however, remain in no hurry to right the wrong that has been done to Fraser, Ohuruogu and Co. An IOC spokeswoman said: "The disciplinary procedure that we opened back in February 2010 is still open. No decision has been made on this case."
Fraser describes the situation as "ludicrous and disgusting."
"It's not fair on myself and the rest of the team members," she said. "It's frustrating not knowing what's happening. It's quite stressful because we heard the news in 2010 and then no follow-up. It's quite disgusting. Just give us some answers. Let us know what is happening, rather than just leaving it open-ended. It's ridiculous.
"So many people ask me, 'Have you got your medal? Have you got your medal?' I don't know what's going on. It's quite unprofessional.
"Half of the girls are actually finished now – Catherine's retired and I'm semi-retired. It would be a great thing for us to have the medals but don't leave us on tenterhooks. I mean the race was in 2004. It's crazy. It really is. It's ludicrous."
It is that. But then re-writing the record books, and retrospectively righting wrongs, has proven to be far from straightforward for the IOC. Hence, 12 years on, there is no official winner of the women's 100m from the Olympics in 2000.
Marion Jones won the race but in December 2007 the IOC stripped the American of the five medals she won at the Sydney Games after she admitted lying to a grand jury about her drug taking activities. The IOC decided not to announce a revised winner of the women's 100m final. Katerina Thanou, the Greek sprinter who was suspended after missing a drugs test on the eve of the 2004 Games, finished second to Jones.
The IOC website lists no gold medal winner. It has Thanou and Tanya Lawrence of Jamaica, who finished third, as silver medallists – and Merlene Ottey, who crossed the line fourth, in the bronze medal position.
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