Robert Heffernan is in line to win a retrospective bronze medal in the 20km race walk from the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona after Russian Stanislav Emelyanov was found to have committed an anti-doping violation.
Colin Griffin, two-time Olympian (2008 and 2012) and former training partner of Heffernan, believes it will be a timely boost for the Togher athlete ahead of the forthcoming European Championships in Zurich.
“According to the IAAF updated list of sanctioned athletes, Stanislav Emelyanov, was found to commit an anti-doping violation under the Athlete Biological Passport system (IAAF Rule 32.2b),” explained Griffin.
“This was based on a test carried out on July 26, 2010 — the day before the men’s 20km walk at the European Championships in Barcelona. He won the race, with Rob finishing 4th.
“He is the 17th Russian athlete coached by Victor Chegin to have committed an anti-doping violation and to serve a ban. When a Russian athlete coached by Chegin tests positive, it is no surprise to any of us at this stage.
“The winner of the 50km walk (where Rob finished 4th) in London (Sergey Kirdyapkin) is also coached by Chegin and withdrew unexpectedly before last year’s World Championships in Moscow.”
Griffin also pointed out two other Irish athletes to have lost out on gold medals from Victor Chegin coached athletes.
“As a matter of interest, our other most recent World Championship medallists – Gillian O’Sullivan (2003) and Olive Loughnane (2009) both finished second to Russian athletes coached by Victor Chegin!”
“For Rob, I think this will give him a timely boost leading into the European Championships. Obviously back in 2010 he had yet to win a championship medal and it would have been special to enjoy the moment at the time. But the fact that we won his world title in Russia, beating the Russians, was special and heroic.
“We’ve heard stories down the years about the Russian system through people with more inside knowledge there. It appears to be systematic doping and Chegin seems to enjoy full support and protection of the Russian athletics federation and local Mordovian government who fund their training centre in Saransk.
“I don’t really blame the athletes. They would be pressurised into following the programme with the incentive of financial reward and a better life as a result of winning medals. One of his athletes, German Skurygan, (1999 world 50km champion, who later tested positive) paid the ultimate price when he died suddenly in his sleep a few years ago at the age of 45.”
Griffin retired from race walking last year and has become more involved with coaching – he coaches Laura Reynolds who will be in the women’s 20km in Zurich.
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