Bittersweet for Rooney as he is declared an Olympic medallist

Croydon Harrier Martyn Rooney in action at the 2012 Olympics. What chance the 2026 Commonwealth Games coming to Crystal Palace?

Martyn Rooney in action at London 2012. He’s now an Olympic medal-winner

Croydon Harrier Martyn Rooney is an Olympic medallist, eight years after he’d finished his race.

Rooney, along with his team mates from Great Britain’s 4×400 metres relay squad who finished fourth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, have been promoted to the bronze medal position following the belated disqualification of a member of Russia’s quartet for a drugs offence.

Rooney, the double European 400m champion, greeted the news yesterday in exactly the sort of bittersweet manner you might expect of someone who was denied their moment of glory by a drugs cheat.

“Eight years late, but delighted with the news,” tweeted the double European 400m champion from Thornton Heath.


Rooney’s tweet from last night shows a picture of him setting off on the anchor leg of the 2008 Beijing Olympic final, in pursuit of Jamaica and a Russian team which included a drugs cheat

Rooney, running the final leg of the race, had crossed the line in Beijing in fourth place, the race won by the United States and with the Bahamas second.

The International Olympic Committee announced the latest raft of retrospective sanctions from its headquarters in Lausanne yesterday evening. Improvements in drug testing analysis methods have allowed sports anti-doping laboratories to re-examine samples from the 2008 and 2012 Games, leading to dozens of competitors in a range of sports to be belatedly disqualified.

The IOC has previously announced that it found 98 positive cases in retests of more than 1,000 samples from the Beijing and London Olympics. The latest tests can detect the use of steroids going back weeks and months, rather than days.

The whole of the Russian athletics team was banned from last month’s Rio Olympics after there was found to be state-sponsored doping, involving cover-ups of positive drug tests at previous events, including the 2013 athletics world championships in Moscow and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Yesterday’s announcements of the latest findings included a positive test for turinabol – an anabolic steroid – by Denis Alexeev, a member of Russia’s 4x400m relay team which had finished third in the 2008 Beijing Olympic final. The whole team is disqualified and Alexeev has been ordered to return his bronze medal.

One of Rooney’s 2008 team mates, Andrew Steele, heard the news of his new-found status “while in a gentlemen’s outfitters in Manhattan”. Struck by the absurdity and injustice of his situation, he celebrated his greatest achievement in the sport by standing on a rock, for a podium, in Central Park, where there was no one to acclaim his “success”.

Rooney, now 29, has probably lost tens of thousands of pounds in grants, appearance fees and sponsors’ endorsements over the last eight years by not being recognised as an Olympic medal-winner. National Lottery funding is dependent on performance and invitations to major European meets, worth thousands of dollars per race, often depend on whether an athlete can describe themselves as an Olympic medallist. Rooney’s contracts with his sportswear providers will also have had bonuses included for medal-winning runs.

Rooney had been in the form of his life in Beijing, setting a lifetime best to finished sixth in the individual final – a performance which remained his personal best until last year.


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2 Responses to Bittersweet for Rooney as he is declared an Olympic medallist

  1. There must now be so many such belated awards that hopefully it results in a new batch of medals being produced, rather than the passing on of second hand ones retrieved from the drugs offenders. I also hope there’s at least a simple ceremony for British athletes, if they would welcome one.

    • Many re-awarded Olympic medals are “new”: the authorities have grown somewhat tired of recalcitrant drug cheats who delay the return of their ill-gotten medals. In the case of relay teams, when some competitors who have not been caught doping are stripped of their result, the problems are multiplied.

      I’ve seen retrospective medal presentations. A wet Sunday morning in Battersea Park in front of two men and a dog never quite manages to match the pomp and ceremony in an Olympic Stadium in front of 80,000 spectators in the first flush of success.

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