SPORTS

Beckie Scott's battle for her Olympic medals helped pave the way for Armstrong

02/13/2015 12:06 EST | Updated 04/15/2015 05:59 EDT
Another Canadian athlete's journey to her rightful place on the Olympic podium helped open the door for shot putter Dylan Armstrong to get his bronze medal.

It took more than two years of courtroom wrangling and foot-dragging, but cross-country skier Beckie Scott was eventually upgraded from bronze to silver to gold at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

"It was absolutely a precedent-setting case," Scott said from her home in Canmore, Alta.

The International Olympic Committee didn't want to give Scott the gold medal in the women's five-kilometre sprint, even though first-place finisher Olga Danilova of Russia had tested positive for doping during the Games.

The Canadian Olympic Committee went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to argue on Scott's behalf.

The IOC's argument was "the floodgates for endless litigation over results in sporting events would thereby be opened" and would "entangle the IOC in an endless web of challenges and appeals that would render its positions intolerable'' if the court ruled in favour of Scott.

What made the situation more confusing was even before the court handed down its decision on the gold medal, Scott had been upgraded from bronze to silver.

Larisa Lazutina of Russia had been stripped of second place for doping, but the different circumstances around that case made the awarding of the silver to Scott more straightforward.

Scott took possession of her silver Oct. 21, 2013 in a ceremony in Calgary. The Court of Arbitration ruled Dec. 18 that Danilova should be stripped of the gold medal and it turned over to Scott.

"In a way, it was a paradigm shift for the IOC," Scott said. "I don't think that they'd been overruled in the Court of Arbitration for Sport before that moment."

Scott finally received her gold June 25, 2004, in a Vancouver art gallery.

Armstrong went from fourth to the bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing because a competitor tested positive for doping. He'll receive the medal in his hometown of Kamloops on Sunday.

The IAAF re-tested stored urine samples from the 2005 world track and field championships in 2013 and stripped third-place finisher Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus of all his results post-2005.

The COC didn't wage a public, dramatic battle for Armstrong as it did for Scott.

But president Marcel Aubut said once the Belarusian was banned for life, the COC constantly lobbied the IOC about Armstrong to keep him on the IOC's radar and hurry up the process.

"We worked very hard to keep the focus of the IOC on it," Aubut said. "The process is very slow. They are good people at the IOC, but you need lots of patience.

"The will to correct it and making it fair was present, but the urgency to correct was not there."

Unlike Armstrong, Scott was at least able to stand on the Olympic podium after her race and enjoy the fact she was the first North American woman to win an Olympic cross-country ski medal.

"I certainly did feel triumphant with the bronze medal. At that time, I couldn't have been happier to be honest," Scott recalled.

"The silver and the gold, it didn't feel like a moment of triumph. It felt in some ways a moment of relief. Finally this moment was here and finally justice had been served. Right had prevailed over wrong and now we could close this book and go home."

Armstrong expects to feel a similar sentiment Sunday.

"There's relief because I've been patiently waiting," he said.

Scott, who retired after 17 World Cup victories and also winning silver at the 2006 Olympics, remains one of the most recognized anti-doping advocates in sport.

The 40-year-old is a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency's executive committee and chairs the organization's athlete committee.

Scott hopes people aren't cynical about sport because Armstrong is receiving his medal so long after the fact.

"I think these kind of cases continuing to have exposure and continuing to be covered and receive attention are still actually a good thing for the anti-doping movement," she said. "It shows there are people who want the right things to happen and want good sport to prevail."

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