by kevin rutherford and nuun elite kara goucher
Over the past few months, thankfully several athletes have been retroactively awarded Olympic and World Championship medals. Each of these athletes dedicated years of hard work for a chance to earn that medal, and this is vindication of everything they’ve given to their sport. But for many, this moment brings mixed feelings.
A decade late, they are unable to share a moment of pride with their country on the podium. There are no tears of joy to take in what they just achieved, there is no prize money, and there are no sponsorship bonuses. And often, there is little communication from their sport's federation.
In a recent blog post, Kara describes winning the bronze medal at the 2007 IAAF World Championships as the greatest accomplishment of her career. In 2015, it became even greater when a competitor's sample tested positive for a banned substance. But two years later, she hasn't heard from IAAF or USATF, and she hasn't received her silver medal.
photo: getty images
1. How did you find out you are now the Silver Medalist from the 2007 IAAF World Championships 10,000m?
I found out about the possibility of a medal upgrade back in August 2015. I saw something on twitter about Elvan Abeylegesse’s “A” sample testing positive for steroids. Then I got a call from Chris Chavez, a reporter for Sports Illustrated, and he told me that he was hearing the same thing. A few days of new articles ran about it, and then I heard nothing about it again until two weeks ago, when the IAAF published their monthly report. In the report, it had a list of the latest sanctions in track and field and it stated that her results from the 2007 World Championships were disqualified. Once again, I learned of this report on twitter and through news media. I have yet to be contacted by anyone in any sort of official capacity.
2. What went through your mind when you found out?
The first time I found out, I was very emotional. I was going through a public battle in the media with my former coach relating to anti-doping issues, and I was having a hard time with the backlash I was receiving. I am very vocal for clean sport but I never really thought that I would benefit from it in such a way. I was so happy, that 8 years after the fact, that people were retesting our samples and catching cheats. I cried a lot and my family cried as well. They were very happy tears, I was grateful to rightfully move up in the standings. I felt so much hope and motivation after I found out.
3. Now that you’ve had time to process, how are you feeling?
Now that two more years have gone by, my feelings have changed a bit. I’m still grateful that justice is being served, but I have had time to ponder what my life would have been like had I finished second on that day. I always though of that race as a huge blessing, that I got lucky to nab that bronze. But had I finished second, I might have viewed myself as a possible world champion. I never really believed I was that good, I believed I got lucky. And so that shift in my mindset might have made a big difference in the way I viewed myself and raced. I start to think of the money lost based on prize money that day, my sponsor bonuses, and future increase in appearance fees and I get frustrated. We are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars. And I get annoyed with the IAAF and USATF for not telling me what is going on. This is/was the biggest moment of my career and to find out 10 years later and not have anyone give me the respect of an email or phone call frustrates me. But, at the end of the day, I am still very grateful for everything that race gave me and the opportunities that it provided me. It’s complicated.
4. Some individuals have said athletes should just be grateful they are getting their medals. What would you like to say to them?
One medal has the potential to change the entire direction of your career. Imagine you dedicate your entire life to something, only to find out 10 years later you were better than you thought and more successful. It’s painful and confusing. You start to wonder what the point is. The point is that I earned the medal and I deserve to have it in my hands and have all of the magical experiences that come with it, and I don’t. And Jo Pavey and I still don’t have our medals. Maybe we will stop bringing it up once justice is fulfilled. But I would love to help facilitate and ease this experience for future athletes because it isn’t right or respectful how it is handled now.
5. You’re an outspoken advocate for competing clean. Does the recent string of new medal winners make you feel hopeful?
Yes. I am happy to see more medals being reallocated and people being caught. I like the thought of cheaters living in fear, that they never know when their bubble will burst. But some of these medal upgrades are taking place long after athletes' careers, those moments and opportunities are gone forever. Yes, better late than never, but painful nonetheless. I’d like to see us get more ahead of the game. I’d like to see more sponsors and companies take responsibility in the fight. I’m hopeful for more progress.
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