Caster Semenya could be awarded the 2012 Olympic and 2011 World Champion gold medals as a breaking doping scandal could see current women’s 800m world champion Mariya Savinova handing back her medals and facing a lifetime ban from sport.
An international anti-doping commission recommended yesterday that the Russian Athletics Federation be banned from the sport over widespread doping offences – a move that could see the powerhouse Russian athletics team banished from the Rio Olympics.
This could also result in Savinova and other top Russian athletes being stripped of their medals retroactively, as was the case with famous sprinters Marion Jones and Ben Johnson, who were caught for doping.
An independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) identified what it called systemic failures in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and in Russia “that prevent or diminish the possibility of an effective anti-doping programme”.
Russia finished second behind the US in the medal table at the 2012 Olympics.
In the event, by no means certain, that IAAF were to adopt the commission’s recommendation, Russia could be excluded from major competitions, including the Olympics and European Championships.
The scandal revolves around accusations that money was demanded from top athletes to “bury” medical tests showing drug use.
Wada released its findings into allegations made in a documentary on German television in 2014, of systematic doping in track-and-field events, particularly in Russian athletics.
Savinova was identified in secret recordings in the documentary where she admitted to taking banned substances. According to the report Savinova said: “There is no other way to do it, everyone in Russia is on pharma.”
The commission concluded that the recordings demonstrated that she had an in-depth knowledge of doping regimes.
A day before the findings were made public, Semenya said although she could be crowned champion she would still consider herself the silver medallist.
“I ran the Olympics and I won the silver medal, so I can’t celebrate anything other than my silver. Even if they crown me Olympic champion, it is just an award from them I never celebrated,” Semenya said at the Tembisa Street Mile on Sunday.
“It wouldn’t mean anything for me, it would be great for my country but for me as an athlete I cannot entertain the thought.”
Semenya said she would instead work hard to win the gold medal fair and square.
“There was someone that finished first in the Olympics, whether she doped or not, I came second and that will never change,” she said.
Savinova also finished ahead of Semenya at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in South Korea.
Should Semenya’s silver medal from both events be upgraded to gold she will have won three global titles including the 2009 World Championships in Berlin.
After Berlin, Semenya spent 11 months off the track while the IAAF carried out gender tests. When the storm erupted over Semenya’s performance in Berlin, Savinova was one of the athletes who made snide remarks about the South African, reportedly saying, “Just look at her”.
Semenya’s form has been mixed since returning from that suspension.
Semenya’s plan this year was slightly side-tracked due to a niggling injury and only qualified late for this year’s global showpiece in Beijing.
At the world championships she advanced to the semi-finals after posting a season’s best of 1:59:59.
“Being able to make it to the semis and run under two minutes, I think we achieved what we planned to do,” she said.
“Getting under two minutes with seven months of training and a new coach is a good result and winning the African Games was a bonus.” - Cape Times