Australia’s Jared Tallent finished in the same place as he did at the end of the 50km walk in London and Beijing at the Rio Olympics, only this time he was quick to state that he was proud to stand on a ‘clean podium.’
Tallent’s silver medal from London was later upgraded to Gold when it was revealed on 24 March 2016 that the Court of Arbitration for Sport had disqualified the results of original winner, Sergey Kirdyapkin.
Thirty-one-year-old Jarred Tallent, Australia’s most prolific male track and field medallist, was given his gold from London at a ceremony in Melbourne in June, four years after the actual race.
If you talk to any athlete who has had their medal from an Olympic Games upgraded due to an athlete who beat them subsequently failing a doping test, they will, in the main, tell you that there is still a hollow feeling, despite receiving their just desserts. They have after all been deprived on their moment at an Olympic Games. In Tallent’s case standing atop the podium hearing the Australian national anthem and watching the Australian flag rise.
Tallent has said to the various media outlets that the honour of achieving the feat for a second occasion and actually being able to cross the line first had driven him on in Rio. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and despite leading until just over two kilometres from the end, he had to settle for silver.
“It would have meant so much to hold on and get the gold here,” said Tallent,no doubt because he would have finally been able to experience what he was deprived of in London in 2012.
The sad fact is there are too many athletes who have found themselves in Tallent’s position, and as the doping of athletes becomes more hi-tech, and the doping companies continue to be several years ahead of those testing them, there are likely to be many more from these Olympic Games.
It is therefore time that pressure be brought to bear on the International Olympic Committee to right these wrongs. Why should these athletes be prevented from having their moment of glory? Can Tallent’s gold medal ceremony in Melbourne have come anywhere close to what it would have been like to stand on top of the podium in London or Rio?
Here is a radical idea but one that maybe deserves consideration.
At the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 all those athletes who have seen the medals they won upgraded, or find themselves elevated from fourth to a bronze medal should be presented with their medals at the next Olympic Games. The IOC or the sporting body which overseas their sport should fly them to the Games free of charge.
Either the normal medal ceremony is replicated and the gold medal winner’s national anthem could be played and their flag raised. Or an alternative option would be to create a larger than normal podium and all those athletes who have seen their silver medal upgraded to gold in the last four years take their place side-by-side after being individually introduced. The same could be done with the silver medal and bronze medal winners. All could then stand united as one.
After all they would have all shared in the fact that they had been robbed of that moment previously. All would be sending a statement to the world that clean athletes are united. If managed properly it could be one of the most powerful moments in any Olympic Games.
One thing is for sure, these athletes who have been robbed of their moment in the limelight, and receiving their reward for their endeavours. They should be presented with their medals in the environment in which they were deprived, at an Olympic Games. Whether it is a part of the opening ceremony or the closing ceremony that is up to the IOC. It could even be halfway through the games, but it must happen, as too many have had that moment stolen from them.
Jared Tallent summed up his plight when he said post race “I wanted to be Olympic champion for more than a few months but just couldn’t do it unfortunately.” Most champions have four years to reflect on their success and also reap some financial reward from that status of being an Olympic Champion. Tallent only received his gold medal from London two months ago. This is time that he will never get back, but the IOC could have given him and others like him that moment of receiving the medal you have earned with the whole world watching.