A massive doping scandal rocking the Olympics universe may have its influence felt as far away as the Yukon.
Whitehorse’s Jeane Lassen, who competed for Canada in weightlifting at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, could see her final placement improve by one position as doping allegations emerge against a competitor who finished higher in the standings.
Lassen, who retired from competition in 2012, placed eighth in the 75-kilogram division at the Beijing Games.
“The closer you get to the podium, the better it feels, for sure, but that’s definitely not how I wanted to be seventh,” said Lassen. “It’s sad that eight years later is when they developed the test that will catch the traces of the drugs these athletes were taking.
“The very cool part about competing clean is that you know that’s your performance and it can never be taken away from you.”
Two weeks ago the International Olympic Committee announced 31 athletes from the Beijing Olympics – spanning 12 countries and six sports – have tested positive for doping as 454 urine samples taken at the Games were retested.
Last week the Associated Press reported that an unnamed source told the Russian state news agency Tass that 14 of the 31 athletes are Russian. Among those named by the source, who is said to be a member of the Russian Olympic Committee, is Nadezhda Evstyukhina, the bronze medalist in Lassen’s weight class in Beijing.
The IOC is attempting to keep a lid on the suspected dopers until secondary samples can be tested, at which time a formal case will be laid against those who test positive a second time. Punishment will likely include disqualification from the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio and the loss of their Beijing results.
The IOC has stripped medals from dozens Olympians – mostly for the use of banned substances – since the 2000 Games alone.
Five medalist from the 2012 London Games (one of whom is Russian) have since been forced to hand over their hardware. All five lost their medals due to doping.
“The teacher in me, when people want to quickly judge those who cheat in sport, I think it’s important to understand that just like there’s no bad students, just bad choices, it comes down to the same thing for athletes,” said Lassen. “They’re not bad people, they just want the same thing as every other athlete, they’ve just made a choice.”
Lassen, 35, who is a candidate the Yukon Liberal Party in the upcoming territorial election, had a remarkable bar-bending career.
After starting weightlifting at age 12, Lassen went on to become the first female to compete at six junior world championships before competing at a total of seven senior world championships. She won medals at both, including bronze for overall and silver in the clean and jerk at the 2006 senior worlds.
Lassen also won gold and set a Games record at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, in the 69-kilogram class.
She captured a total of nine medals at Pan American Championships between 2000 and 2008 and won 15 medals at the University World Championships between 1999 and 2005.
She retired from competition in 2009 but returned to the sport in 2011, winning silver at the Canadian Senior Weightlifting Championships and taking 15th at the World Weightlifting Championships.
She then won gold at the 2012 Western Canadian Senior Weightlifting Championships and made the Canadian team for the 2012 London Olympic Games, five days before a career-ending back injury.
“A long time ago, the first time I represented Canada, I decided that other people’s ethics couldn’t deter me chasing my dreams,” said Lassen. “The only thing you can control in your own life is your actions. You have to believe that most people are making good choices as well, so put your head down and get your work done, and not assume those who are beating you are cheating because there’s a good chance that’s not the case.”
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