Valeriy Borchin pulled away from veteran Jefferson Perez to win the 20-kilometre walk at the Beijing Olympics, then strode into waves of questions about Russia’s doping-mired track and field team.
Three race walkers tested positive for EPO in out-of-competition tests in Saransk in April, Russian news agency All Sport reported in the week before the Beijing Games started, including former 20K world record-holder Vladimir Kanaikin, Athens Olympics bronze medallist Alexei Voyevodin and Viktor Burayev.
Kanaikin qualified second behind Sergey Morozov for the Russian Olympic team -both going under the world record at the national trials in March – but neither competed in Beijing. Kanaikin was dropped from the squad and replaced by 2005 world champion Sergei Kirdyapkin.
Morozov did not start the 20k yesterday, despite being listed as the favourite in a preview circulated by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
Borchin, who was suspended for 12 months after testing positive for the stimulant ephedrine in March 2005, said he had no detail about Kanaikin’s case or Morozov’s absence.
“I did not even know what it was all about,” Borchin said through a translator, at a post-race news conference where three-quarters of the questions related to doping. “For the last month I have been training all alone.
“I know some of my teammates have fallen ill, and it just happened ... that they couldn’t make it here.”
Borchin said he hadn’t had any positive tests and repeated he hadn’t been in contact with Kanaikin.
“I’m not sure what’s going on, I barely saw any of my teammates before I came so I don’t know anything about it,” he said.
Reports of the walker doping cases followed news that seven Russian women were provisionally suspended by the IAAF, track and field’s world governing body, for suspicious doping-related matters. Among them was Yelena Soboleva, who set the fastest 800-metre time in 11 years in June.
Cyclist Vladimir Gusev was dropped from the Russian squad for Beijing, days after his team said it terminated his contract because of irregular data from testing.
Even the head of the International Olympic Committee’s medical commission said the case involving the seven women appeared to be “systematic doping.”
“I think it is just frustrating to find that such type of cheating – planned cheating - is still going on,” said Arne Ljungqvist, who called don the Russian track and field federation to investigate. “That’s very disappointing to find.”
Borchin shrugged off the negative attention to win in 1 hour, 19 minutes, 1 second.
As well as beating 1996 Olympic champion and three-time world champion Perez, Ecuador’s greatest athlete, Borchin outclassed a field containing 2004 Olympic champion Ivano Brugnetti of Italy and veteran Spaniard Javier Fernandez, silver medallist at Athens 2004 and at the last three world championships.
Perez took silver at 1:19.15, his second Olympic medal coming 12 years after his first, and Australia’s Jared Tallent was third in 1:19.42. Brugnetti slipped back to fifth and Fernandez seventh.
The only other Russian to finish was 36-year-old Ilya Markov – who took silver behind Perez at the ‘96 Olympics – in 17th.
“Race walking is unpredictable,” the 21-year-old Borchin said, explaining he felt vague because of the heat on the course around the Bird’s Nest stadium on the Olympic Green. “Obviously the others had more experience than I have me, but I was fortunate today ... I do feel lucky.”
A silver medallist at the 2006 European championships, Borchin withdrew from the 20k race at world championships last August at the 14-k mark because of heat exhaustion.