Malcolm Boyle: Getting shot of the ugly face of cheating

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Nadzeya Ostapchuk celebrates after her winning throw. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Nadzeya Ostapchuk celebrates after her winning throw. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"She'd frighten a police horse, she would" was the observation of a gnarly old sports coach watching the recent Olympic Games performance of the "belle" from Belarus, Nadzeya Ostapchuk.

It wasn't so much that she's no Maria Sharapova of the shot put world but she was an alarmingly different physical specimen to most of the female field athletes at the London Olympiad.

There was something decidedly odd about the whole presence and demeanour of the woman who snatched a gold medal away from New Zealand's Valerie Adams with as vial a display of cheating as you'd find in the track and field world. In fact, the whole sorry saga surrounding Ostapchuk had an element of surrealism.

We are told that her juice of choice was methenolone which is apparently a derivative of testosterone, usually a favourite of those who leave the toilet seat up.

But it wasn't just the appearance of Ostapchuk that was instantly jarring.

Her demeanour on the dais for an Olympic champion was decidedly strange.

She appeared not to know whether to laugh or cry, or even how to cry. I wonder how many times she had practised that moment.

In contrast, Adams looked shattered and bewildered that the training regime she had dedicated herself to over the past four years had left her still short of a richly deserved gold.

Did Ostapchuk join in her country's national anthem? Rather, it was a moment of seeming embarrassment for her.

I have no time for those who say we shouldn't come down hard on this un-athletic athlete. She was quick to point blame at others close to her, including an extraordinary allegation of blackmail against a former coach.

One was left wondering how she could begin to pick up the pieces of her shattered Olympic career and indeed her life with these most serious of allegations hovering over her.

For, while there are rich rewards for those who can deservedly wear Olympic gold, there must be a huge price to pay for being branded an Olympic cheat.

In my view, any doping transgression deserves an instant lifetime ban for both athlete and coach. At the moment, the rules seem so woolly and unbalanced, they are almost laughable.

Adams did not deserve to retain her Olympic title in such an undistinguished way. Even so, her performance on the dais was that of a champion, albeit a heartbroken one.

At least there will be justice as the two return to their home countries.

Adams will spend the next few months out of New Zealand but whenever she does appear here again, she will be lauded with the warmest and proudest of welcomes home.

As for Ostapchuk, who cares? Perhaps she will go back to selling tractors in Belarus.

Whatever happens, those who love sport can only hope that this is an episode that is not played out over and over again in the next four years as the forensic chemists get to work on the stockpile of samples collected from the Games.

Let's hope there aren't more Valerie Adams out there who have been cheated out of their place in the sun.

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