What if Nadzeya Ostapchuk is innocent?
We knew it all along, didn't we? That hideous she-beast from the wilds of Belarus could never beat “our Val” without cheating. They're all cheats over there, aren't they? Bloody communists. She looks like a man! She’s a filthy cheat! Ban her for life! And so on.
It seems like everything just fell into place nicely for New Zealand at the London Olympics. The medals kept coming; we got the most golds since, well, ever; the rowers tore it up. It even turns out that the one disappointment, Valerie Adams’ silver medal, was caused by a dirty cheating Belarusian shot-putter wearing a hair helmet. Everyone has been quick to jump on Ostapchuk after her failed drug tests, and why wouldn't we? She looks like an evil Soviet villain from an Eighties Bond movie, she’s from a country that we can't locate on a map, she's probably a Communist, and she might even be a man.
But wait one goddamn second. What if, as Ostapchuk says, this is all a huge misunderstanding? Stranger things have happened. Unlikeable as she is, there is something in the Ostapchuk tale that makes me wonder what the real story is.
The Blackmail TheoryThe former coach of the Belarusian athletics team has been arrested for extorting money by threatening to cause – yes – positive drug tests. That sounds like a really good scam to pull if you hold a position of power over athletes. The thing they are most scared of is a doping charge. Maybe, just maybe, everything started to unravel and he went through with the plan.
The Steroid FoundReinforcing this theory is the substance found in Ostapchuk’s system. Metenolene is an old-school anabolic steroid which is very easy to test for. I get the feeling that Belarus knows a thing or too about juicing up their athletes. Why would they choose a drug that could be so easily detected? Why didn't she just use HGH like everyone else? New Zealand experts agree that something doesn't add up.
Crazy Excuses WorkAthletes have successfully avoided drugs charges by using crazy excuses. Richard Gasquet apparently tested positive for cocaine because he pashed a coke fiend at a nightclub. Five Mexican soccer players got off clenbuterol charges because they said they ate “tainted meat” (that didn't work for Alberto Contador, though). Blackmail and sabotage? Sure, why not.
We don't know what goes on in BelarusBelarus is an ex-Soviet bloc country. We don't know what pressures and politics Ostapchuk has to deal with. It's not hard to believe that there might be a bit of a “win at all costs” attitude left over from the Cold War era of Soviet athletes. It has been reported that the KGB are now involved in the corruption case involving Ostapchuk's old coach. Things get very murky in that part of the world.
Even after all this, it seems likely that Ostapchuk is guilty of doping one way or another, and won't be seeing that gold medal again any time soon. The two main points I wanted to bring up were that first, something about Ostapchuk's story cast a bit of doubt in my mind, and second, it pissed me off a little bit that a lot of people said “I knew it” and “I told you so” when the news broke. OK, we can all go back to congratulating Valerie Adams and making funny comments about how Ostapchuk looks like a man now.