May 30, 2013, 2:53 PM EST
After 3,208 days as a silver medalist, American shot putter Adam Nelson was finally awarded gold by the IOC Thursday after his Ukrainian rival Yuriy Bilonog was found to have been doping in 2004.
Bilonog was caught using performance-enhancing drugs in December, when his eight-year old urine samples were thawed and retested using more sophisticated methods. But the IOC waited to award Nelson the medal until the IAAF, track’s governing body, made its adjusted results official.
“It’s not just a victory for me, but a victory for the system,” Nelson said in December when he first heard Bilonog had been stripped of his medal. “I can’t dwell on what happened or didn’t happen eight years ago. I can only look forward to what the next phase in life brings. At least now I can do that with a gold medal.”
But Nelson, who won silver in Sydney, admitted last year that he was disappointed about not being able to stand on the podium and hear the “Star Spangled Banner” played in his honor.
“The 2004 Olympics were a really special moment for me,” Nelson told the New York Times. “The downside of this is I feel like our country was robbed of a medal at the relevant time. One of the biggest parts of an Olympic career is when you hear your anthem and see your flag when you stand on that podium. That’s something I can never replace.”
It may not be in Athens, but I’m sure we can arrange something back home. Congratulations, sir.
Bilonog was the only Athens Olympic champ stripped of his gold, but was one of five athletes from 2004 who failed retroactive drug tests. He’s joined by men’s hammer throw silver medalist Ivan Tskikhan of Belarus, women’s shot put bronze medalist Svetlana Krivelyova of Russia, women’s discus bronze medalist Irina Yatchenko of Belarus, and weightlifting bronze medalist Oleg Perepechenov of Russia.
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