THIS IS A LOVELY, AMUSING STORY. WHILE STRICTLY SPEAKING ANYTHING RELATED TO DOPAGE IS OFF-LIMITS ON THE FORUM, THIS STORY IS MORE ABOUT THE (SOMETIMES) GRUELLING PROCESS OF PROVIDING AN ADEQUATE “SAMPLE”. . .
The Times of Londre
Rick Broadbent, Athletics Correspondent
It will come as a relief to those tired by the arched eyebrows of gossiping laymen to hear that one British athlete at the World Championships received a standing ovation from the drugs testers.
Had it not been for Christine Ohuruogu, the slight figure of Nicola Sanders would have been the British success story of Osaka.
She ran a personal best in the 400 metres semi-final and then beat it to earn a silver medal.
She also ran a silky smooth last leg to rescue a bronze in the 4x400 metres relay, some haul from a woman plagued by shin and Achilles trouble, but the feeding frenzy surrounding the gold medal-winner meant it was reduced to footnote status.
“I probably did get overshadowed but that’s fair enough,” she said. “Christine won and so it was right that she got all the attention. It’s just a shame that it turned into something negative. We were first and second, but it’s this British thing. They slate the team for not doing anything and when we do perform, they still find something wrong.”
As Ohuruogu realised that she had become a divisive figure at home, Sanders left the 400 metres podium press conference in Japan and began her own ordeal.
“All medal winners get tested,” she said. “It was midnight by the time I got in there. It took me a while to go and they measured the specific gravity and said it was too dilute. I went twice more but they didn’t count because you have to wait an hour.”
Ohuruogu and Sanders take gold and silver
Sanders gives Britain a flying finish
When she produced another sample it was still too weak.
“My mouth was so dry and I tried to get a sip of water but they wouldn’t let me. It got to 4am and the doctor said ‘you can’t keep her here all night, she’s racing again on Saturday’.”
The testers relented and let her home, whereupon Sanders chatted with Laura Turner, her roommate who had waited up for her, before drifting off to sleep at 5.30am.
The knock on the door came two hours later.
“The doctor was back,” Sanders said. “Because they’d left me alone, the first sample that morning didn’t count. It took me two hours to go and was still too weak. I started crying and said, ‘I’m too tired, I can’t do this any more’.”
Finally, at noon the next day, the tester announced a reading that was strong enough.
“It was the nightmare of all nightmares,” Sanders said. By a quirk of fate, Sanders was chosen to be tested after the relay final, although the rest of the team, including Ohuruogu, also volunteered because they had broken the British record.
“The testers were like, ‘oh my God, not you again,’ ” Sanders said. “One girl gave me a hat and a bracelet. They were all lining the corridor as I walked out, shaking my hand, clapping. I thought, ‘this is better than getting a medal’.”
As Sanders prepares to race Sanya Richards, the fastest woman in the world this year, in Brussels tonight, after a quiet fortnight in comparison with her absent teammate, there would be a sense of belated justice if the forgotten woman of Osaka made the journey from cubicle to pedestal.