With each new doping scandal, Shannon Rowbury relives her disappointment over the London Olympics.
Six women in the field for the 1,500 meters at the 2012 Games have either been banned or are facing allegations of performance-enhancing drug use. Last week, it was revealed that Turkey’s Gamze Bulut, who finished second in the event, is under investigation by the IAAF. Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi, the fifth place finisher, is suspended pending a similar investigation.
Turkish runner Asli Cakir Alptekin, who finished first in London, was stripped of her gold medal and is serving an eight-year doping ban. The fourth-place finisher had served a ban before the race.
It stings that minus those who have either been banned or come under doping scrutiny, Rowbury would have won the silver medal.
“These cheaters rob people like me and my competitors of medals,” she said in a video posted to Facebook following the announcement about Bulut’s failed test. “But they also rob our family, our support group and our country.”
Rowbury is running at the U.S. indoor championships in Portland this weekend. She won the 3,000 meters on Friday evening, finishing well ahead of the runner-up in 8 minutes, 55.65 seconds.
She planned to also run in her signature 1,500 on Saturday. The top two finishers in each event go to the world championships, also in Portland, the following weekend.
The 31-year-old, who trains with Oregon’s Nike Project in Portland, wanted to compete in her own backyard before she turns to the outdoor season and a chance at her third Olympics.
“It (the doping scandal) is something that is very upsetting to me, but I have to look forward to the things I think I can do and the things I can control, and want to accomplish,” she said Thursday prior to the meet. “I still, God willing, have another shot at an Olympic medal that I can have the right way. I just look forward to the opportunity ahead of me.”
Rowbury, who was a standout at Duke, ran in both the Beijing and London Games. She finished seventh in the field in China, the best finish for an American woman in a modern Olympics. Her London finish set the new mark. She won the bronze medal in the 1,500 at the 2009 world championships in Berlin.
In addition to the video decrying doping in her event in London, Rowbury is one of a number of athletes, including decathlete Trey Hardee, who signed a petition delivered to the IAAF council meeting in Monaco this week that called for financial sanctions for the Russian track and field federation, including the return of prize money. The petition said the funds should be distributed to athletes that were denied winnings.
Marathoner Paula Radcliffe posted to Twitter: “I back the idea that at the very least all stolen prize money should be repaid before those banned can return to our sport.”
The IAAF suspended Russia in November after an independent report by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel detailed systematic corruption and doping cover-ups in the country. On Friday, the IAAF announced that Russia has not yet done enough to reform its anti-doping program in order to have its athletes reinstated to global competition. The sport’s world governing body said it will likely decide in May whether Russian athletes will be readmitted or not in time for the Rio Olympics in August.
But while Rowbury has been vocal about cleaning up track and field, she’s an equally passionate athlete who has been busy training for the Olympic push.
“I spent a month at altitude in December, then came back and was able to go straight onto the indoor track. Workouts have been good, I’ve been focusing on strength but my speed is coming along really well,” she said.
She certainly appeared in fine form in the 3,000 on Friday night, easily out-kicking the field over the final 400 meters of the race. It was a national title on a journey that will hopefully end in Brazil this summer.
“I will continue to be an advocate for clean sports,” she said, “but right now I have to focus on myself and trying to achieve more medals.”