BRENDAN BOYCE has welcomed the findings of a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commission report, which has accused Russia of running a ‘state-sponsored’ doping programme.
The independent commission was headed by former WADA President Dick Pound and stated that six Russian athletes should not have competed at the 2012 Olympics in London because of abnormal results in their blood biological passports before the Games.
The report calls on Russia to be barred from competing in international athletics events.
Race walker Boyce, from Milford, has kept a close eye on the findings, which have huge implications for his sport, and for his training partner, Rob Heffernan, who is set to be upgraded to a bronze medal.
The 335-page report suggests that five Russian coaches, including race walking coach Viktor Chegin, be banned for life.
Chegin trained Sergey Kirdyapkin, who won gold in the 50km race walk in London.
The WADA report is expected to help the IAAF strip Kirdyapkin of his gold medal, meaning Heffernan would receive a retrospective bronze medal, with a hearing to be held by the Court of Arbitration for Sport set for December 3-4.
The commission found evidence of doping with the involvement of the state and reported widespread corruption.
“I wasn’t completely shocked, but the level of corruption involved is a bit of a surprise,” Boyce (pictured above) told Donegal Sport Hub.
“When you see some of the Russian Federation and the IAAF being involved in cover-ups, it’s a bit scary.
“When you’re involved in the sport like I am, you think that you’re fairly tuned in to what’s happening, but this is just an extra level altogether.
“The level of intimidation going on, the calls to doping centres, people destroying samples; crazy stuff, really.
“I’m happy that it has all come about. It has always been talked about, people would be whispering: ‘The Russians are on drugs’ and people were sort of pointing the finger like that.
“I agree with the recommendation to ban the whole Russian Federation.”
In January, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, Rusada, announced that several athletes, including Kirdyapkin, were suspended for doping infringements.
Igor Yerokhin is already serving life ban and Sergei Bakulin, who was fifth in London, has also been banned for a three-year period.
In July, trainer Chegin was suspended by the Russian Athletics Federation and none of their walkers competed at the subsequent World Athletics Championships in Beijing in August.
“Their whole team was automatically pulled before the Worlds in Beijing and you could almost feel everyone at the start line knowing that it would be a race without any question marks,” Boyce said.
“The publicity between a World Championship and the Olympic Games is ten fold.
“You don’t want the general public or anyone looking at the sport for the first time pointing fingers and going: ‘Those athletes are dirty’. It was nice in Beijing to be going in 99 per cent sure that it was clean and the winner is the winner.”
Given the finishing places of Kirdyapkin, Yerokhin and Bakulin in London 2012, Boyce’s own hopes for next summer have increased – he believes that it is now a real possibility that he and Heffernan could be aiming for top-eight finishes at the next Olympics.
He finished 29th in London, but that result has since been upgraded as a result of the bans but, looking ahead to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the Letterkenny AC man is aiming high.
“It does motivate me a bit more, especially with my ambitions in Rio,” he said.
“I’ve been saying for a while now that my ambitions were for a top eight finish in Rio and now three of the top guys won’t be on the start line, so those ambitions move up again.”
Kirdyapkin shattered the Olympic record around The Mall three years ago when he finished the 50k event in 3 hours 35 minutes and 59 second, shaving over a minutes off the previous record, held by Italian Alex Schwazer (3:37:09).
Heffernan came fourth, setting a new Irish record with a time of 3:37:54.
“Rob’s performance that day is probably the fastest never to get a medal,” Boyce said.
“If he had retired, getting a medal wouldn’t probably mean as much, but hopefully he gets it now as soon as possible. When you go from fourth to third, it’s life changing.
“Where the sabotage comes in is that the IAAF were aware of Kirdyapkin’s blood values in 2011 and 2012.
“It’s really scary to see that officials are involved. This sport will never completely eradicate doping. It’ll never be totally eliminated, not when you move up the chain and you see the cover-ups and bribes that are happening.
“You fear for the sport because these are people in power who are in a position to protect the sport and to make sure that it’s fair. They have let us down.
“I feel sorry for the Russian athletes in one sense. It’s so systematic that, basically, if you don’t sign up to that programme you won’t be selected. They basically had a limited choice that meant that they had to get into bed with that programme.”
Boyce didn’t get finishing in this year’s World Championships after being disqualified when he picked up a third red card.
With qualification already secured for Rio 2016, he returned to training at the beginning of the month and is now gearing towards next year.
He believes the problem with doping lies mainly with ‘sources higher up the chain’.
“If you’re a clean Russian athlete, your career could be in jeopardy because of people in the Federation,” he said.
“I think one option the IAAF could look at is to give an amnesty to athletes from Russia who would be willing to train outside of Russia, maybe at IAAF training centres.
“If an athlete fails a test, they get banned, but the coaches and officials move onto the next athlete.”Tags: