Belated bronze just the boost Derval O’Rourke needs to speed recovery from Achilles operation

Medal in the post for injured hurdler as Nevin Yanit to be stripped of Gothenburg gold

Derval O’Rourke, centre, trailing  eventual ‘winner’ Nevin Yanit of Turkey, left,  in the women’s 100m hurdles final at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Gothenburg in March. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Derval O’Rourke, centre, trailing eventual ‘winner’ Nevin Yanit of Turkey, left, in the women’s 100m hurdles final at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Gothenburg in March. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 


For Derval O’Rourke, winning another European Indoor bronze medal will be worth the wait, if only in terms of inner satisfaction.

With confirmation that old rival Nevin Yanit has been banned for two years by the Turkish Athletics Federation (TAF), following a positive doping test given last February, O’Rourke will be automatically promoted to the bronze medal position from the 60 metres hurdles in Gothenburg, in March:.

Yanit won the gold medal, but that will be now stripped, given both the findings and timing of her doping offence.

The only thing unclear is when O’Rourke will get her hands on her latest big race medal – her fifth in senior competition, with Sonia O’Sullivan the only Irish athlete to win more than that on the track, with eight.

Winning a medal in these circumstances is also new territory for Athletics Ireland, who have at least begun the process of getting O’Rourke officially promoted to bronze.

“European Athletics has not yet received notification of the official sanction from the IAAF, and can’t make an official comment until that occurs,” said Athletics Ireland spokesman Kenneth Kiernan.

“We will continue to communicate with European Athletics and the IAAF in order to establish the implications of this development and will urge the international federations to bring clarity to the situation as soon as possible.”

Yanit also won the European outdoor 100 metres hurdles last summer, defending the title won in Barcelona in 2010, when she also edged O’Rourke into the silver medal position.

It’s unlikely those titles will also be stripped, unless the athlete herself admits further guilt, unlikelier still, although the TAF have left no doubt about the seriousness of the offence – confirming by the A and B samples tested positive.


‘Accepting’
O’Rourke has been stoically accepting of the matter, admitting she had doubts about Yanit, going back to 2010, but that no athlete could afford to surrender to the idea that their rivals might be cheating.

Not that she could hide satisfaction on hearing the news yesterday: “Delighted Nevin Yanit has finally been given a drugs ban,” she said. “It’s the very least that should happen.”

“There was talk since 2010, when she won gold, so it wasn’t really a surprise to me,” she also said recently. “But I never thought about it, because I think sometimes you can start using that as an excuse, ‘Oh my god, everyone’s on drugs’. . . you have a get out jail card with yourself in terms of performance.

“But I go back in my head to 2010, when she beat me for a European outdoor gold, well, an outdoor European gold is huge in our sport.”

Indeed it is – although is some ways O’Rourke will now be considered to have won that title, given Yanit’s now tainted record.

She was one of eight Turkish athletes deliberately tracked by the IAAF’s the new biological passport testing methods, which trace the blood samples of athletes over an extended period of time, rather than just a one-off sample.

Yanit had earned a reputation for peaking at the major championship with surreally perfect timing, when often under-performing at other stages of the season.

Her winning time of 7.89 seconds in Gothenburg was a national record and European-leading time: Alina Talay of Belarus was second – and will thus be promoted to gold, followed by Veronica Borsi of Italy, who will now get silver, with O’Rourke posting her season’s best of 7.95 seconds in fourth, finishing just 0.01seconds behind Borsi.


Achilles operation
At 32, and recovering from an Achilles operation which ruled her out of the World Championships in Moscow, promotion to bronze will give O’Rourke further incentive to stay competing through 2014, including the European Championships set for Zurich.

It may also help restore some of the funding she lost at the start of this year, when her podium grant of €40,000 was cut to just €12,000.

Interestingly, this latest Turkish doping scandal coincides with Istanbul’s bid for the 2020 Olympics, competing against Tokyo and Madrid – with that decision being made on Saturday week.

Earlier this month, TAF suspended 31 other athletes for using banned substances (including two teenagers), and TAF chairman Mehmet Terzi stepped down from his post over these and related incidents.

Ugur Erdener, president of the Turkish Olympic Committee, recently told the IOC they can be “totally assured” of the country’s adherence to World Anti-Doping Agency rules:

“Any athlete found to have cheated will be punished to the full extent of Turkey’s comprehensive and rigorously enforced anti-doping legislation, other laws and in accordance with international anti-doping practices”, he said.