This should be about Ciara Everard’s hopes for the European Indoor Championships in Prague this week.
About how she hasn’t ran as fast as she did two years ago in the approach to the same event in Gothenburg where she broke through on the international stage and made a final, but still feels pretty good.
And it would take another article entirely to do justice to an accident-prone nature that has seen her absorb the effects of two bad bike crashes and their resultant injuries and, more recently, fall into a frozen lake in Ghent whilst warming-up for a race.
The thing is that Everard is an 800m runner and few events have been as festooned with Russians athletes whose achievements have been called into question by the recent doping allegations levelled at them.
Among the most damning scenes in the German TV documentary that made the claims last December was one appearing to show 800m Olympic gold medallist Mariya Savinova admitting to the use of a banned steroid.
It has all provided for a backdrop that cannot be ignored this week in the Central European city, which has the dubious honour of hosting the first major athletics championship since those revelations poured out like pus from an already open wound.
“It will be interesting,” said Kilkenny’s and UCD’s Irish indoor record holder. “I was in South Africa over Christmas with Jenny Meadows and I am quite friendly with her. It has been devastating for her. It has been seven championships and she has missed out on three medals.
“Four of her medals should be a different colour. On prize money alone from championships she has missed out on one hundred grand, let alone the sponsorship she would have got and all of that. The year before, she was really struggling because her funding had been cut.”
Meadows has herself spoken recently about the emotional and financial effects which all this has had on her. The British runner has estimated, for example, that she has made just €500 from this season’s indoor season though she is the market leader in her class.
Just one story among the thousands out there.
Everard isn’t in Meadows’ class. She won’t be expecting to see a medal hang around her neck this week and even remarked at one point that the drug story ‘doesn’t really affect” her, which comes across as more of a defence mechanism than anything else.
Meadows has gone as far as to claim that the doping issue could finally “kill” athletics and Everard, though she doesn’t go quite that far, admits that she chooses not to think about it in the knowledge that if she did she simply wouldn’t run again.
Doping is not going away. Neither are Russian athletes.
Russia has named a 45-strong team for these championships which, given the German documentary’s claim that 99% of their athletes are on illegal substances, raises moot questions about the events we are soon to witness.
Three of those athletes are due to compete in the women’s 800m — Anastasiya Bazdyreva, Mariya Nikolayeva and Yekaterina Poistogova.
Everard, like Meadows, does her best to ignore the uncontrollable and keeps on by insisting those like her can upset the most loaded of odds.
“People can look up to athletes like Jenny Meadows and say, well, she is clean. I know for 100% she is clean and she has won medals, but that won’t deter me from the sport. In track & field, clean athletes can still win medals.”
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