Drugs cheats spoiling Olympics for both athletes and sports fans

Jessica Ennis-Hill at the English Institute of Sport. Picture: Andrew Roe

Jessica Ennis-Hill at the English Institute of Sport. Picture: Andrew Roe

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He was one of the heroes of perhaps the greatest night ever or British athletics. Long jumper Greg Rutherford claimed a gold medal to set up an enthralling Saturday evening that just got better and better as heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill and 10,000 metres runner Mo Farrah joined in the fun with golds of their own.

That’s why we should listen and learn when someone of Rutherford’s stature made this pronouncement: “I still fear the International Olympic Committee has missed so many tests that should be re-tested. I hope more people get caught (for drug taking). And I hope more tests are done on the old samples. We need to get rid of every person who has cheated and repair the reputation of athletics.”

Repair the reputation of athletics? What has the sport come to?

Cast your mind back almost four years to the last Olympic Games and memories of London 2012 mean that this summer’s games in Rio can’t come soon enough.

I was lucky enough to have been in the Olympic Stadium just a few days before that glorious gold medal-filled evening in August 2012, having got tickets to watch some of the heats as well as the rowing and beach volleyball.

It was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life, something I am sure anyone who watched any of the London 2012 events would agree with.

Despite all the cynicism, England pulled off staging the great sporting event on the planet with style and good humour, creating memories galore for millions of people.

Sadly since then the gold ribbon events of the Olympics — track and field — have been sullied by drugs cheats. And, as efforts continue to try to clean up the sport, more revelations of wrongdoing are being exposed.

In the wake of the recent news that the re-testing of 31 athletes’ samples from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing — and 23 from London four years later — had proved positive for banned substances, Rutherford also said sports’ governing bodies should find a way to recover the money cheating athletes have earned, as well as their medals.

Of course he is right. Awarding medals retrospectively to athletes who just missed out on glory because of cheats goes a little way to putting things right, but it doesn’t punish the culprits.

There has to be a stronger reprimand for people who take drugs. Otherwise, those of us sitting down to watch the action from Brazil in a few weeks might as well not bother.

Every time an athlete wins a gold medal or breaks a world record, there will cynics among us doubting whether the new champion is drugs-free or not.

And that in itself is, of course, so unfair on the thousands of clean runners, jumpers, throwers, cyclists and swimmers etc, including, for example, Selston’s Molly Renshaw, who will be in action in Rio.

Just look at another of those August 2012 stars, Ennis-Hill. Remember how frustrated she was last year when she failed to get her 2011 world heptathlon silver upgraded to gold, despite the winner, Tatyana Chernova, later failing a drugs test.

A sample given by the Russian in 2009 and retested last year showed the presence of an anabolic steroid in her system.

Chernova was banned and had two years of results wiped out by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, but that period ended just 16 days before she won gold at the World Championships and so deprived Ennis-Hill of what would now be a third world title.

Somehow athletics has to clean up its act faster than ever.