Failed Drug Test ‘Difficult’ For Married Olympic Shot-Putters
It is one thing to hold absolutist anti-doping beliefs as a point of principle, and quite another to suddenly find out there is a cheater in your own house.
Canadian shot-putter Dylan Armstrong learned last week that his wife, Evgeniia Kolodko, who also competes in the discipline, returned a positive drug test from the 2012 London Olympics.
It’s no small irony that the Kamloops, B.C., native owns an Olympic bronze medal from the 2008 Beijing Games thanks to the disqualification of Belarussian athlete Andrei Mikhnevich, who initially finished third by one centimetre but was later hit with a lifetime ban for taking performance-enhancing drugs.
The 25-year-old Kolodko, who won a silver medal in London for Russia, is among eight athletes identified by Russian media for getting caught using banned substances in a retest of their London urine samples. Thousands of samples collected at each Olympics are split into A and B batches, then frozen and preserved for up to 10 years. Anti-doping officials periodically retest some of the urine as the technology for catching cheats improves, and previously unknown doping methods are uncovered.
It’s likely Kolodko’s second-place finish – like her husband, she also moved one step up the podium because of a doping disqualification involving a Belarussian rival – will be vacated from the record books, and the medal stripped.
Neither Armstrong nor his coach Anatoliy Bondarchuk, who has also worked with Kolodko, could be reached for comment but the former did issue a written statement, which was sent to the CBC.
“News of athlete doping is very disheartening for competitive athletes who are committed to competing clean. I have never condoned doping in sport … I have been consistently outspoken about my position on doping, which is zero tolerance,” he wrote. “Today’s news is especially difficult as it affects both the Olympic athletic community I am part of – and someone I love deeply: Evgeniia.”
Armstrong and Kolodko weren’t yet a couple at the time of the London Games, where the 35-year-old Canadian record holder fell short of the podium. They began dating that same year and were married in a private ceremony in B.C. in 2015.
The statement offers a glimpse of the anguish the couple is feeling; in it Armstrong requests that their privacy be respected and indicates he has encouraged his wife to co-operate fully with the World Anti-Doping Agency and International Olympic Committee.
“I will offer my love, patience and support to Evgeniia as she responds to the news of these doping test results in her home country of Russia and as she navigates her future as an elite athlete,” the statement reads.
It concludes: “I will not be speaking on behalf of Evgeniia on this matter.”
Though the doping test is a personal calamity for Armstrong and Kolodko, it should be considered in the context of a broader problem in the world of shot put, where brawn and bulk are prerequisites for success.
Like the other so-called throwing events, the sport has long been rife with doping.
It’s not strictly a Russian thing; no fewer than 40 shot-put athletes from a dozen different countries have been nailed for taking illicit substances in the past 15 years.
Several of them have been Olympic or world champions; most have held either national or world records. A few have been pinched multiple times.
At the Harry Jerome Classic in 2014, Armstrong belatedly received a world championship medal that was also related to Mikhnevich’s ban.
That day, he told a Vancouver Sun interviewer he believed most of his peers – and particularly those from Eastern European countries – were doping.
“These guys cheat because there’s a big financial reward in some of these countries,” he said.
Kolodko’s athletic future is very much in doubt; she hasn’t competed internationally since 2014 and is facing a two-year ban if the ‘B’ sample confirms the initial positive result.
Armstrong, who has been hampered by arm injuries in recent years, last competed in 2013.
Last year, he expressed hope Brazil would be his career swan song.
Should it happen, it appears his wife won’t be on the stadium floor to savour it with him.