Jared Tallent: tainted medals

September 3, 2016


At Rio in the 50 km walk, long-distance runner Jared Tallent literally fell over the line and scored himself a silver medal. This time he knew he had been beaten by a better athlete, the reigning world champion, and ‘clean’ athlete, Slovakian Matej Toth.

But it was a very different story four years ago. 

In 2012, at the London Olympics, Tallent crossed the finish line behind Russian athlete Sergey Kirdyapkin; however, after Kirdyapkin failed a drug test, the Russian walker’s results from a period of three years from 2009 to 2012, including the 2012 Olympics, were discounted in January last year.  

On June 16 this year Tallent swapped his silver medal for a gold one at a ceremony in Melbourne. 

The awarding of a retrospective medal is a sobering reminder that it is impossible now to trust in the certainty and finality of sporting results. 

When we saw athletes step up to the dais in Rio last month, a cloud remained over whether the medals being handed out would be overturned in months or years to come.

Perhaps it is naive to think in 2016 that competitive sport at the highest level would be free of the influence of performance-enhancing drugs.  

While ideally sport is about enjoyment, competition and performing to the best of one’s abilities, the pursuit of success and money creates a cut-throat environment that can lend itself to the bending of rules and standards.  

Of course, this isn’t just a Russian issue—we’ve seen systematic doping at the Olympics before, and have seen our own athletes violate drug codes in various sports.  

Sadly, selfishness and domination of others isn’t restricted to the sporting field, and so often it is the most powerless who suffer. 

In John chapter 13, verse 34, Jesus delivers the commandment to ‘Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another’. It sounds simple, but when we look at the hate and intolerance in the world around us, clearly it is not.  

We may not have the ability to solve the problems we see in our news bulletins. We do, however, possess the power to choose to use love in our interactions with those in our sphere of influence. To be fair and just in our workplaces and our homes, and to be generous with what we have.  

Jared Tallent missed out on the full experience of winning Olympic gold at those particular games. His ultimate triumph was not achieved without hurt along the way.

But essentially his 2012 Olympic odyssey ends happily. His experience in the past four years has thankfully led him to be finally acknowledged as the Olympic champion he is. Justice was eventually served. 

May we be alert and responsive to those around us for whom facing injustice is a daily reality.


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