Former world and European shot put champion, 2008 Beijing Olympic bronze medalist Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus could be asked to hand back his medals after receiving a life-time ban for failing a doping test for the second time in his career.
Belarus Athletics Federation imposed the ban after the athlete tested positive in re-tests of his doping sample from the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki.
I know how much money Vadim and Ivan have spent on court procedures – I don't have such money and it will be in vain. The authorities know this and are using the situation against me
If the decision is approved by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Mikhnevich could be stripped of several medals, including gold from the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona and his 2008 Beijing Olympic bronze.
However, Andrei Mikhevich maintains he is not guilty.
Talking to his fans through one of the blogs he said: “I simply didn’t do a drug test at the 2005 World Championship. I’ve explained this to IAAF and during the commission at the National Athletics Federation. But for no reason my request to open sample B and do a DNA test was ignored. At NAF I was openly told that I will get no help as they don’t want further requests from IAAF.”
The athlete still has the chance to disprove the allegation by seeking to have his ban overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.
In 2010 two Belorussian hammer throwers, Ivan Tikhon and Vadim Devyatovsky were in similar situations. They appealed and succeeded against the decision of the Disciplinary Commission of the International Olympic Committee to strip them of Olympic medals on doping charges.
But Andrei Mikhnevich says he knows the truth and that is enough for him.
“I know how much money Vadim and Ivan have spent on court procedures – I don’t have such money and it will be in vain. The authorities know this and are using the situation against me. I don’t really care what people say about me, I know the truth and that’s enough for me.” Mikhnevich said.
At the other end of the world, in Canada, the news about Mikhnevich’s life-time ban has spread like wildfire since it raises the possibility that Canadian shot-putter, Dylan Armstrong, could get the coveted Beijing medal that he lost by so little distance.
The 32-year-old from Kamloops, B.C. threw 21.04 metres inside the Bird’s Nest stadium while Mikhnevich threw 21.05 at the 2008 Games.
Now Armstrong could yet get the Olympic bronze medal, which will be Canada’s first-ever Olympic medal in shot put.
Judy Armstrong, Vice president of Kamloops track and field club where Armstrong has trained since he was 9 years old, and mother of the athlete, told Al Jazeera that ‘they are excited the medal is finally coming Canada’s way but that nothing could replace that stolen moment of an Olympic victory.’
“‘We had our suspicions and its great that cheaters eventually get caught. I think it’s wonderful that IAAF and WADA are getting everything in place to catch people so deceitful. There are cheaters in the sport for sure.”
“I was in Beijing and I did know that the moment was very much stolen. It could have been a wonderful evening for Dylan and his country… He is going to get the medal soon so we are of course very happy and excited about that. People in Canada will be overjoyed,” she concluded.
Anna Lidster is a freelance sports journalist who has written for the Siberian Times, Daily Mail and BBC World Service. You can follow her on twitter @AShlyakhtenko