Sport Athletics ‘Russians took something from me I can’t get back’

‘Russians took something from me I can’t get back’

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When you miss out on an Olympic gold medal because you were beaten by a drug cheat, it burns.

But standing on the podium after coming second to Russian Sergey Kirdyapkin in the 50km walk in London, my first thoughts were that I was pretty pleased with myself.

I was incredibly happy with the way I’d raced, happy with my time. Deep down I was really satisfied with my performance and I tried not to think about it too much – just be happy with a silver.

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It’s an Olympic Games, so to win any medal is pretty special.

I tried not to let it get me down because there was no proof at that point, all you had was suspicion.

As some of the other athletes and my coach said: “We know who the real gold medallist is.”

Kirdyapkin was coached by Viktor Chegin, and at the time he had around 15 athletes who had been banned for doping.

Tallent approaches the finish line at the Beijing Olympics, where he also won silver.
Tallent approaches the finish line at the Beijing Olympics, where he also won silver. Photo: Getty

He has a training centre in Saransk in Russia, about 800km from Moscow, where they’ve got all their staff doctors.

I’d been there before for a competition and it was pretty obvious from about 2008 that systematic doping was going on at that centre.

There were five athletes who had tested positive for EPO before the Beijing Olympics. And then they had two or three doping bans per year after that.

Up until now, the total number of athletes he’s had banned is around 30.

By the time 2012 came around, pretty much every athlete knew that if a Russian was coached by Chegin, he was a dope cheat.

What hurts is that if I’d got the gold medal at the time, there would have been so many more opportunities.

Everything’s fresh in the minds of people. But now a few years have passed, I’ve probably lost those opportunities. Sponsors will just be looking to those who have success in Rio.

That burns. There are so many things that upset me, that I’ve just totally missed out on.

Things like the IAAF gala dinner every year for gold medallists in Monaco. I’ve missed out on that. I’ve missed out on going round the MCG before the AFL grand final.

These are the things you never get back.

Lining up for the start in London, I wasn’t thinking about the Russians in particular.

There were other athletes who were favoured to win and I was more concerned about them.

Johann Diniz, a French walker, was the favourite and world record holder.

Sergey Kirdyapkin enjoying his moment in the sun - a moment that should have been Jared Tallent's. Photo: Getty
Sergey Kirdyapkin enjoying his moment in the sun – a moment that should have been Jared Tallent’s. Photo: Getty

When you looked at the Russians, it made you angry, but you just had to focus on what you were doing.

It all started to unravel in 2013 at the Moscow world championships. There were five Russian athletes who withdrew – they were on the start list then pulled out a couple of days before the competition started.

They all had different reasons – one was injured, one was sick – and it just didn’t add up.

You can’t have five athletes from the same coach, same squad, all pull out for different reasons.

We had the suspicion that something had gone on then. But it took another year and a half before it was announced that they were serving doping bans, in early 2015.

Now, the IAAF has taken the Russian ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and that case will be heard on December 2-3.

I think now it’s pretty easy to see that corruption has occurred. It’ll hopefully be cleared up, and I’ll get the gold medal.

It’s something I’ve thought about a lot over the past few years.

It will be a pretty joyous moment. I’ll finally be able to call myself an Olympic champion, but it’ll be a weird feeling because it won’t be long until I’m lining up in Rio.

I’ll be the only Australian to win a retrospective gold medal because of doping – unchartered waters for Australian sport.

It’s been weighing on me, definitely. You have your theories about what’s going on, but everything’s a lot clearer now with the release of WADA’s report.

The report identified “systemic failures within the IAAF and Russia”.

It’s been an incredibly long process, and I just can’t believe what level of corruption has gone on.

They haven’t protected the clean athletes.

That should have been their top priority.


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