10th Dec, 2016

Did drug cheats rob district Olympian of medal?

Stratford Editorial 10th Dec, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

A FORMER British discus thrower has been left wondering if he was cheated out of an Olympic medal.

Athletics has been engulfed by a worldwide doping scandal which has seen Russia implicated in ‘state sponsored’ doping and former President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Lamine Diack arrested.

Among those who may have missed out on a medal is Glen Smith, who represented Britain at three successive Olympic Games, culminating in the Sydney Olympics in 2000 where he reached the final and finished eighth.

The 43 year-old – who is now a personal trainer at Stratford’s Wildmoor Spa and Health Club – says most British athletes were aware some foreign competitors were taking performance enhancing drugs but kept quiet because it appeared doping was being ‘pushed under the carpet.’

At that time testing procedures to prove if an athlete was cheating were less scientific, rigorous or widespread compared to more recent years.

Glen, who lives near Welford, told The Observer: “Many of the guys of different nationalities I competed against were around the same age as me. We’d all been juniors of 16 or 17 attaining similar standards and were progressing through to senior level. It came as a shock when suddenly a few started getting results close to world records.

“I thought hang on a moment I’m training just as hard as him – how come he’s throwing five metres further than me all of a sudden? Even their personalities changed. Athletes like me were too scared to point the finger.

“I won’t name any names but there were two Russians, an American and a Lithuanian who come to mind. One of the side effects of using steroids is acne. The face and back gets covered in spots – so we suspected them but were not in a position to prove it.

“Yes one might wonder if cheating by others cost me a medal in the 2000 Olympics but I’m not bitter about it. There are people who have no moral values and will do literally anything to win. Did it make me angry then? It’s an interesting question but the answer is no. You just get on with it and say to yourself I’ve got to where I am through blood, sweat and tears. They’re just cheats.”

Glen’s athletic career began unexpectedly at school when aged 14. During a practice session for school sports day, a PE teacher gave him a discus and tape measure and told him to go down to the bottom of the field and have a go. He threw it 45 metres and it flew out of the playing field.

He was soon winning school district competitions with ease and had become a member of the famous Birchfield Harriers club.

As a 15-year-old Glen threw an Olympic two kilo discus 45.30 metres, a world record for that age, and won his first GB vest aged 17.

Glen continued to break age records through his teenage years and was fourth in the World Junior Championships. He won the European Championships in 1992 and was fourth in the Commonwealth Games in 1998. His personal best was 65.11 metres in 1999 and by 2000 he was ranked 11th in the world. He retired in 2004 at the age of 33.

He misses the thrill of competition so may make a comeback to Masters Events in which veteran competitors are placed into age grouping.

He said: “Not long ago I went down to Stratford Athletics Club and threw the discus 56 metres in my jeans and trainers.

“Back at home I went online and discovered that the throw would have put me fifth in the British rankings for that year.”