Dylan Armstrong can almost feel a 2008 Olympic bronze medal in his hands now.
Armstrong, a 32-year-old Kamloops, B.C., native, was awarded a bronze medal in men’s shot put from the 2010 World Indoor Championships on Thursday after the International Association of Athletics Federation annulled the results of Belarusian Andrei Mikhnevich.
Armstrong feels that, with the IAAF decision, he has cleared the final hurdle before being awarded the 2008 Olympic bronze medal that Mikhnevich won after doping, while he was relegated to fourth.
“It’s just another step forward,” said Armstrong in an interview from Copenhagen. “It’s looking better and better. I trust the IOC to make the right decision and go from there.”
The organization announced that Mikhnevich’s results have been annulled from August 2005.
“I feel grateful to the IAAF that they’ve gone back and re-tested and taken the appropriate steps to resolve this case,” said Armstrong
“They’ve obviously done the right thing.”
Mikhnevich won silver at the 2010 world indoors event, but the IAAF issued him a lifetime ban when he was caught for a second career doping violation after renewed tests from the 2005 world championships in Helsinki found evidence of a banned substance.
As a result, Armstrong moved up from fourth to third with his throw of 21.39 metres.
“It was definitely a memorable championships,” recalled Armstrong. “It was a really tough competition there.”
Germany’s Ralf Bartels upgraded his bronze for silver with a throw of 21.44 metres. American Christian Cantwell (21.83) won the event.
The IAAF decision came after Belarus’s athletics federation handed Mikhnevich a lifetime ban in June as a result of the renewed testing. The Canadian Olympic Committee has anticipated since then that Armstrong would get the world indoor medal and Olympic bronze eventually.
Armstrong missed a medal by less than a centimetre — about the width of a dime — at the 2008 Games. He had long suspected the Belarusian of continuing to use drugs after he was caught in 2001 and received a two-year ban, and came back throwing even better — but was competing primarily in domestic events instead of internationally.
“When you hear the real truth when it comes out, it’s disappointing,” said Armstrong. “But I just wasn’t surprised, I’ll be honest with you.”
The International Olympic Committee has yet to decide whether Mikhnevich should be stripped of his bronze medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But Armstrong feels it’s just a matter of time before the IOC takes action.
“For me, this is super-satisfying, because I did work hard,” he said. “I have achieved all of these medals. It will definitely be all of my goals completed — a world indoor medal, a world outdoor medal and an Olympic medal.
“(The Olympic bronze), it’s the most important one. The Olympic medal, I don’t think it really matters what colour it is. It’s a dream that came true. I worked really hard for that. It was a childhood dream. I always wanted to go to the Olympics and try to be successful there. It’s definitely a big achievement for me personally.”
Armstrong said he has not heard informally from the IOC on his anticipated Olympic medal, but he expects to hear from the Games governing body in the near future.
“I’m sure I’ll be finding out shortly on what’s going to be an obvious process,” he said.
When asked if he had gained a degree of justice, Armstrong replied: “It just doesn’t pay to cheat, especially now. (Governing bodies) are advancing testing. But it’s all good. The testing is better.
“I’m definitely not the first one and only one (to be awarded a medal after someone is caught cheating.) This is all good. ... I see it as a good thing that they’re trying to clean up the sport.”
Mikhnevich was one of six athletes caught in the re-test from 2005, and the IAAF and World Anti-Doping Agency have vowed to continue investigating past results. The IAAF’s decision has also inspired Armstrong and, he suggested, shown what a clean athlete can do. Accordingly, he is aiming to reach new heights as he works toward his third Olympics.
“It just shows that you can win an Olympic medal,” said Armstrong. “It’s just a good thing. If you have the right behind and the right support, if you have a lot of good people around you that believe in what you do and you have a good coach (Anatoliy Bondarchuk), and you make the right decisions along the way, big things are possible.”
The IAAF decision on Mikhnevich has also given Armstrong more motivation to excel in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, which would be his “last” Games. Armstrong had been wavering on his decision to compete after being plagued by an elbow injury that forced him to perform in pain throughout 2012 and finishing fifth at the London Games.
But now that his elbow has healed, he is aiming to excel on the Olympic stage again.
“I’m not done yet,” said Armstrong. “I’d like to try and get a few more (medals) if I can.”
Armstrong succeeded in earning a medal Thursday night as he claimed gold at the Copenhagen Athletic Games. He will now head to a Canadian team training camp in Sweden in preparation for the upcoming 2013 world outdoor championships in Moscow, where he hopes to earn another medal.
“It was a good result (in Copenhagen), so I’m sure looking forward to competing in Moscow,” he said.