Eight years and 17 days after Whitehorse’s Jeane Lassen stepped off the lifting platform at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, her placing moved up a spot.
The retired weightlifter has officially moved from eighth to seventh as the bronze medalist from her weight class has been disqualified for the use of banned substances, the International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday.
“I think what’s most exciting about this is we thought it would take a long time,” said Lassen. “It seems like it won’t take years to have this rectified. It seems like they’re acting quickly and that’s nice to see.”
The IOC is currently running a series of retests of urine samples taken during the 2008 Beijing Games. The first round of retests — using methods unavailable at the time of the Games — took place in May and found evidence of doping among 31 Beijing Olympians, spanning 12 countries and six sports.
Among them was Russia’s Nadezhda Evstyukhina, the bronze medalist in Lassen’s 75-kilogram weight class.
On Wednesday the IOC announced Evstyukhina has been disqualified and will be stripped of her medal for the detection of an anabolic steroid and the hormone EPO.
She is one of six Beijing athletes sanctioned this week, five of whom are weightlifters and three of whom are Russian.
“It comes back to how embarrassing and heartbreaking it is for our sport,” said Lassen. “We have to look at it as an opportunity for us to clean house.
“Some people are fearing that our sport can’t recover from this.”
Lassen’s ascent up the standing might not end there. A second wave of urine retests conducted by the IOC have implicated 15 more weightlifters from the 2008 Olympians in the ongoing doping scandal, the International Weightlifting Federation announced last week.
Among the 15 are three weightlifting champions from China, including Cao Lei who won gold in the 75-kilogram weight class in which Lassen competed. Also listed is fourth place finisher Iryna Kulesha of Belarus and 11th place finisher Hripsime Khurshudyan of Armenia, also from the 75-kilo class.
If Lei and Kulesha are disqualified, that will move Lassen up to fifth place.
“There are four athletes ahead of me who potentially haven’t been tested. They haven’t announced who’s been tested and who hasn’t, they’ve just been revealing the retested positives,” said Lassen in an interview last week. “So there’s a possibility one or more of those athletes might test positive.”
Samples taken at the 2012 London Olympics are also being analyzed and the women’s 75-kilo class results are again among those in disarray. All three medalists from the weight class have tested positive for banned substances, including Kulesha, who won the bronze.
It’s a similar story in the women’s 63-kilogram division in London.
Canada’s Christine Girard, who originally placed third, could potentially take gold as gold medalist Maiya Maneza of Kazakhstan and silver medalist Svetlana Tsarukaeva of Russia are among 11 weightlifters from the London Games caught in retests, it was announced in July.
If the two have their medals stripped, Girard would become Canada’s first Olympic champion in weightlifting. Lassen was there in London as part of Girard’s coaching staff.
“I’m also excited to have been a coach of someone who’s going to be recognized as a gold medalist in London,” said Lassen. “I have my personal ranking going up to celebrate, but also hopefully a medal ceremony for Christine Girard for getting gold in 2012.
“Hopefully we can do something awesome and make it amazing because it’s really sad to be robbed of seeing your flag go up and hear O Canada play while standing on the podium.”
Lassen, 35, who retired from competition in 2012, is a candidate for the Yukon Liberal Party for the riding of Takhini-Kopper King in the upcoming territorial election.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org