x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

New measures leave Olympics drugs cheats with nowhere to hide

Stringent new anti-doping measures will see every medal winner at London 2012 having their samples stored by authorities until 2020.

Belarus's shotputter Nadzeya Ostapchuk was stripped of her gold medal after testing positive at London 2012 for a banned steroid
Belarus's shotputter Nadzeya Ostapchuk was stripped of her gold medal after testing positive at London 2012 for a banned steroid

LONDON // Anti-doping authorities lived up to their pre-Olympics promise to banish any athlete found to be taking performance-enhancing drugs, but no one is under any illusion that means London was a squeaky clean Games.

A total of 12 athletes were excluded after testing positive for banned drugs. For the rest - including every medal winner and many more top contenders - the jury is out until 2020.

Urine and blood samples taken at London 2012 and tested by scientists at the high-tech anti-doping lab in Harlow, east of London, will be stored for up to eight years.

As American cyclist Tyler Hamilton, a 2004 time trial gold medallist, found out on Friday, cheats both past and present can be named, shamed and stripped of their titles even years later.

Yesterday the shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus became the first athlete to be stripped of a medal at the 2012 Games after her gold was withdrawn for doping.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said that Ostapchuk tested positive for the steroid metenolone. She won the shot put exactly a week earlier.

Those sent home before getting near a medal podium in London included the US judo competitor Nick Delpopolo, who tested positive for marijuana which he blamed on unwittingly eating a "hash brownie", the Russian cyclist Victoria Baranova, and the Colombian runner Diego Palomeque Echevarria, who both tested positive for testosterone.

The Albanian weightlifter Hysen Pulaku and the Greek high jumper Dimitris Chondrokoukis - were barred after traces of the anabolic steroid stanozolol were found in their urine.

And while new cases did not crop up every day, the return of many former drug cheats to the Olympic stage after serving bans for previous offences meant the reality of doping in sport was never far from the Games.

The Turkish runner Asli Cakir Alptekin, who served a two-year ban for doping from 2004, took gold in the women's 1500 metres, while Russia's Tatyana Lysenko, who missed the 2008 Olympics because of a two-year doping ban, won the women's hammer.

London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe was unapologetic in saying he wished such athletes had been banned for more than two years and had been kept out of his Olympics.

"If you're asking would I rather they weren't there, the answer is 'of course,'" he said.

Experts screened samples for more than 240 banned substances in under 24 hours and have provided the best anti-doping system officials could have hoped for.

A spokesman for the IOC said on Saturday that there had been 4,686 anti-doping tests so far, of which 3,729 were on urine samples and 957 had analysed blood.

"I'm impressed with what they've done, but of course there's always the potential that we're not catching people," said Phil Watson, a sports and exercise scientist at Loughborough University.

Watson puts part of the success down to significant effort and focus by the World Anti Doping Agency and UK Anti-Doping to send out a "very strong pre-Games message".