Sport

Rob Heffernan secures Olympic medal after Russian gold winner disqualified for doping

SportBy Sean McGoldrick
Rob Heffernan crosses the line at the London 2012 Olympics
Rob Heffernan crosses the line at the London 2012 Olympics

Walker Robert Heffernan has finally secured a coveted Olympic medal after the Russian gold winner of the 2012 race was disqualified for doping.

The Cork native, who finished fourth in the 50km walk at the London Olympics in 2012, has been upgraded to third place after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) disqualified Russian gold medallist Sergey Kirdyapkin.

The Russian subsequently became embroiled in a doping controversy and in January 2015 he was disqualified for three years and two months and all his results between 20 July, 2009 and 20 September, 2009, between 29 June, 2010 and 29 August, 2010, as well as between 17 December, 2011 and 11 June, 2012, were annulled.

But the extraordinary decision of the Russian Anti-Doping agency not to annul his results from the London Olympics was challenged by the IAAF who took their case to CAS.

The Court has considered the case since March of last year but in a statement today declared that "all competitive results obtained by Sergey Kirdyapkin from 20th August to 15th October 2012 are disqualified. The gold medal in the event will now be awarded to Australia’s Jared Tallent."

Prior to the announcement, Heffernan – who will be competing in the event at the Rio Olympics next August - said he had been trying to avoid all distractions in the run-in to Rio. But he accepted that being awarded an Olympic medal was hugely significant.

"Of course, it's huge. There's nothing bigger in any sport than an Olympic medal."

While Heffernan will probably have to wait a few months before the medal is formally presented, his upgrade means that the 2012 London Games now become the most successful in Irish Olympics history.

Ireland had already secured five medals - Katie Taylor (gold), John Joe Nevin (silver), Paddy Barnes (bronze), Michael Conlan (bronze) and Cian O'Connor (bronze) - at the Games, which equalled the previous tally from the Melbourne Games in 1956. Now that Heffernan has been upgraded, the total is six from London.

This is the second time in his career that Heffernan has been upgraded - he won a European bronze in 2010 after another Russian was banned for doping. He won a World championship gold in 2013 which means that he has now captured medals at Olympic, World and European events.

His medal brings to 29 the number of Olympic medals that Ireland has now won.