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Olympic medal hope for Heffernan as IAAF appeal Russian bans

Rob Heffernan’s hopes of finally bagging an Olympic medal have received a major boost today with the news that the IAAF, the sport’s governing body, is appealing the doping bans handed down to several Russian race walkers, among them Sergey Kirdyapkin, who won the 50K race walk at the 2012 Olympic Games in London — a race in which Heffernan finished fourth.

Kirdyapkin was originally handed a three-year, two-month ban by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), backdated to October 2012, with results annulled from three separate periods between 2009 and 2012. The periods, crucially, did not include the month in which Heffernan finished fourth behind Kirdyapkin in London.

The RUSADA decision sparked outrage among the race walking community and in the sport at large, with Australian Jared Tallent, one of the most vocal critics of Russian race walking’s repeated doping offences, saying: “it’s like they’ve just cherry-picked certain periods of time. I can’t understand how he (Kirdyapkin) gets to keep his Olympic gold and then he’s given a three-year, two-month ban so he can return for Rio. That’s just outrageous. It’s like the Russians are laughing at the rest of the world, saying they can do whatever they want. It’s just crazy.”

However, as expected, the IAAF have now stepped in and will end up indirectly fighting the case on behalf of Heffernan and other athletes who lost out on medals due to the super-human performances of the six Russians who were sanctioned — Valeriy Borchin, Olga Kaniskina, Sergey Bakulin, Sergey Kirdyapkin, Vladimir Kanaykin and Yuliya Zaripova.

It is likely to be a lengthy process, but the IAAF’s case looks a powerful one, given the seemingly selective doping bans handed down to the Russians appeared to contravene one of the most fundamental anti-doping rules: the idea that doping in preparation for a championships is every bit as illegal as doping while at a championships.

As a result, that elusive Olympic medal looks to finally be within reach for Rob Heffernan.


Here’s the official release from the IAAF today.

The IAAF confirms having filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration in Lausanne, Switzerland against the decisions rendered by RUSADA in the cases of Valeriy Borchin, Olga Kaniskina, Sergey Bakulin, Sergey Kirdyapkin, Vladimir Kanaykin and Yuliya Zaripova.

All six cases arose from the IAAF Athlete Biological Passport programme launched in 2009 and had been referred to the Russian authorities for adjudication in accordance with IAAF rules.

While the IAAF agrees with RUSADA that there is, in each case, sufficient evidence of an anti-doping rule violation and that there are aggravating circumstances justifying an increased sanction of more than two years, the IAAF disagrees with the selective disqualification of results applied by RUSADA as a consequence of the previous rulings.

The decision with respect to the case of Tatyana Chernova, arising from the re-analysis of her urine sample collected at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009 and kept by the IAAF as part of its retesting strategy, is still under review.

The IAAF will make no further comments pending the CAS proceedings.

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Cathal Dennehy

Cathal Dennehy

Cathal Dennehy is a freelance journalist, a once-serious, now-retired athlete who writes for a number of international publications in the running industry. He has won two sports-writing awards, the Peter Ball Memorial Award in Ireland and the Wills Writing Award in the UK. Nationally, he previously worked for the Sunday Tribune, Irish Runner magazine and has written for the Sunday Independent, Irish Independent, the Guardian and The Independent in Britain. He is a regular contributor to Running Times, Runner's World, RunBlogRun and the IAAF website.
His banter levels are often poor, occasionally exceptional.

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