Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Legacy of 2012

August 2016, Rio de Janeiro

The world of British distance running was left reeling last night as it was confirmed that Olympic marathon bronze medal winner, Joe Howard, had been disqualified from the event after failing a drugs test. A source from the IOC, who will release an official statement later today, also pointed to several breaches of Olympic Branding Regulations, which, although still to be clarified, could almost certainly lead to the Lincolnshire athlete being given a lifetime Olympic ban.

It appears that the urine sample given by Howard after the finish of Sunday's gruelling race contained no trace of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). IAAF medics carried out tests on an A sample and used a B sample for purposes of ratification. Both showed that there were zero artificial stimulants in the athlete's blood.

The case harks back to long-gone days of the sport, prior to the 'Chambers Ruling' in April 2012. Although it is now difficult to comprehend, PEDs were officially outlawed before that date. With the ruling and admittance of PED users into the 'Olympic family', attitudes soon changed. A $400 million sponsorship deal between the IOC and Glaxosmithkline in 2013, thereby cementing its status as a Premier Olympic Partner, prompted a change in IOC rules which set down as compulsory that all Olympic athletes must self-administer at least one of the PED products created by the pharmaceutical giant. Whilst embraced by the sport, the general public and the Private Sector, a small minority protested. Ultra-runner, Shaun Chadwick, famously withdrew from an Olympic training camp earlier this year, tweeting later: 'the PED regs don't sit well with me.' However, Howard is the first athlete to have been proven to be flouting the rules.

In the course of four short days, Howard, one of the UK's most high profile runners, has gone from Britain's new hero to becoming a national pariah. In the early hours of Sunday morning, Howard, from Thoresthorpe, Lincolnshire, ran a lifetime's PB to secure 3rd place in the Olympic marathon, the first time that the event had been held under conditions of the newly-introduced East African Handicap System, in which all competitors from that part of the continent started 10 minutes behind the rest of the field.

Whilst Howard seemed to have the world at his fingertips, the failed drug test looks to have destroyed a promising career in competitive athletics as well as irreparably tarnishing the image of our proud sporting nation.

In addition to the PED violation, Joe Howard also stands accused of breaches of Olympic Branding Regulations. During Constant Athlete Monitoring in the 6 months before the Games, Howard was captured 3 times on CCTV whilst failing to wear any items of the Official Adidas Team GB kit. A further charge refers to the Birmingham Macdonalds Track and Field Championships that took place in June. After winning the 10,000 metres, Howard is alledged to have taken off his Official Adidas Team GB footwear, tossed them onto the infield and then run 2 victory laps of the track barefoot.

An official from Adidas, also a Premier Olympic Partner is quoted as saying: 'We're reviewing the evidence gathered against Mr. Howard. If such blatant disregard of the Olympic Branding Regulations are proven, we shall be pushing for the most serious sanctions currently available.'

The emergence of a video, captured on a mobile phone and posted on YouTube, looks likely to add to Joe Howard's woes. Pictured at the start of the Scarborough Half-Marathon Supported by Aviva in Association with Mastercard, Howard is filmed talking to a fellow competitor, Yorkshire athlete, Sam McManus. In an exchange too explicit to be published in full, Howard is seen to point in disdain towards his running shoes and say: 'Sam - I can't believe they're making me wear these Adidas. They're f**king s**t. I tell you - the men in charge haven't got a f**king clue. What a useless bunch of f**king tossers.' Howard went on to win the race in a new course record.

As of last night, Joe Howard was unavailable for comment.

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