SPORT

As Jared Tallent Finally Claims Olympic Gold Medal, He Says He's Been Chasing Cheats For Years

A more dignified Aussie athlete you will not find.

17/06/2016 5:59 AM AEST | Updated July 15, 2016 12:54
Getty Images
Jared and Claire, aka husband and wife, aka athlete and coach

In a ceremony this Friday on the Treasury Steps in downtown Melbourne, justice was served.

Champion Australian race walker Jared Tallent received the gold medal he should have won in the 50 km walk at the London 2012 Olympics, but which he was denied at the time after claiming silver behind a Russian drug cheat who "won" the race" but was disqualifed almost four years later.

"The first gold medal awarded in Melbourne since the 1956 Olympics makes it extra special," Tallent said, before thanking a long list of people including his wife Claire, also an Olympic walker who is now his training partner and coach.

Getty Images
The Russians will be feeling pretty kissed off right now.

"I just want to celebrate today. Let's enjoy the moment and celebrate what's good about the Olympics. We we now move to eighth on the medal tally in London.

"There are only seven male track and field gold medallists [in Australian Olympic history]. It's just an amazing thing to become part of a club like that."

The Huffington Post Australia caught up with Tallent ahead of the ceremony and asked him to encapsulate his emotions in a word.

Elated," he said.

"It's been so long since London [1460 days to be precise] and I can't wait to put the gold medal around my neck and to celebrate with family and friends."

Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters
His antennae have been picking up signs of dodgy Russian performances for years.

Tallent has the full set now. He won silver in the 20 km and bronze in the 50 km event at the Beijing 2008 Games. But there are medals from other important championships and races which are rightfully his, but which he knows he'll never see.

"Post London, I was beaten by athletes who were caught for cheating and I'll never get those medals back. But this one I will and it's the most important one. I feel very lucky because lots of others never get theirs back."

For years, Tallent has raced with the understanding he was being beaten by cheats. "We all had an inkling that all was not right, a lot of athletes did," he said.

One of the giveaways was that the Russians would "hide" all year.

"They wouldn't race outside of Russia. They'd race at their own championships [but rarely overseas], and that for an athlete is pretty suspicious. Every time IAAF testers came to their country, the Russian customs and immigration officers would notify the powers that be."

When Russia's athletes did venture outside their country occasionally for major championships, there was no way for drug-testing authorities to measure their blood levels against previous tests, which made detection of blood doping close to impossible.

"I had kind of gotten used to getting beaten by the Russians," Tallent said. "I was frustrated when they hadn't been caught."

And as you can see in the above clip, Tallent doesn't often get frustrated -- even when he's coming second at the Olympics to a cheat.

But eventually everything unravelled for the Russians. It all started in 2014 when a German broadcaster produced a documentary detailing sensational allegations of doping and high-level cover-ups in Russian athletics.

Russia was accused of instigating a systematic "East German-style" program. Those allegations were confirmed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in a 2015 report.

Mass bans and sackings ensued. The man who beat Tallent in London -- Sergey Kirdyapkin -- was one of 25 athletes coached by famed race walking coach Viktor Chegin, all of whom were found guilty of doping. There's evidence Chegin is still coaching, a fact which angers the normally unflappable Tallent, who believes Russia's entire track and field squad should be banned from the Rio Olympics.

"There's so much that needs to change, so much evidence that majority of the athletes are doping and cheating and that they've got coaches providing banned substances. There's more and more evidence that they're not willing to change, so I see no reason why they should be in Rio."

Tallent will be in Rio, though, and he'll be one of the favourites in both the 20 km and 50 km events. He'll be defending champion in the latter event now, and rates himself a top chance.

"I'm at my peak," he said.

Emotionally and physically after Friday's ceremony, we'd guess.

More On This Topic
Advertisement

FOLLOW HUFFPOST

Advertisement