'Ban Russia,' says cheated Briton in line for Olympic medal
Eight years after competing in Beijing, javelin thrower Goldie Sayers learnt of her sporting glory while driving down the M11
There have been renewed calls for Russia to be banned from the Rio Olympics in the wake of positive drugs test results from the 2008 Games that could see five British athletes belatedly win medals.
Earlier this month, a re-analysis of samples taken in Beijing eight years ago revealed 31 positive tests. It is believed that 14 of the 31 compromised athletes are Russian. These include Mariya Abakumova, the 2008 javelin silver medallist, and Denis Alekseyev, who anchored Russia's 4x400m team to bronze in Beijing.
British competitors were fourth in both those events, and could now be awarded bronze medals.
Javelin thrower Goldie Sayers says the news is bittersweet. She was told of the reports in a phone call from her agent while driving on the motorway. Her car was struggling with a broken water pump and she was heading to meet her mother at Waitrose in Newmarket.
Sayers "never envisaged the greatest moment of her career taking place on a busy motorway amid a cacophony of broken car parts," says the Daily Telegraph. "There can scarcely be a more pertinent snapshot of the ruin inflicted by drugs cheats than Sayers missing out on her Olympic podium moment and having to instead make do with a celebratory supermarket coffee."
She describes it as "the only time in life you'll feel very excited and really gutted all at the same time".
She remains convinced that finishing fourth in Beijing took its toll on her. "I have no shadow of a doubt that my career would have taken a very different direction had I won that medal on the day," she says. She increased her training regime after Beijing in a bid to improve and ended up with a stress fracture in her back.
The difference between third and fourth at the Olympics is significant in terms of sponsorship, prize money and funding, she said, telling The Guardian that it equates to a "huge six-figure financial loss".
She told the paper: "I'd almost go as far as to say I wouldn't want to compete in Rio if Russia are competing. But boycotting it wouldn't do anything, because no one would care. And then I would be missing out on another Olympic moment. So I will aim to qualify again. However, I certainly think their athletes should be banned from Rio."
Andrew Steele, who ran the first leg for the GB 4x400m relay team, agrees. "Winning a medal would have changed a lot," he told the Telegraph. "Your performance in sport hinges on these tiny little changes of trajectory. The moment we finished fourth instead of third that could have set me on a very different trajectory for the next four years.
Having a medal will mean a lot "symbolically" he says, "but in real terms it will mean nothing".
One person for who the news will be especially frustrating is Dave Collins, the former performance director of UK Athletics. The Guardian recalls that he lost his job after falling two short of the medal target of six in 2008. He would have reached his target had Sayers and the relay team not been denied.
"It was a bugger at the time, and it is a bugger now," he says.