Usain Bolt and the rest of Jamaica’s 4 x 100m relay team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics have been stripped of their gold medals after a stored doping sample from one of the runners, Nesta Carter, tested positive for a banned stimulant.
Carter ran the opening leg of the relay, which set a world record (that was later eclipsed, twice, by Jamaican teams that included both Carter and Bolt). The entire team loses their medals, denying Bolt his “triple-triple”—golds in the 100m, 200m, and 4 x 100m relay at three consecutive Olympic Games.
Carter’s was one of 454 samples from the Beijing games that was preserved and recently retested with more stringent methods than were available at the time. Both Carter’s A and B samples tested positive for the stimulant methylhexanamine. Carter was one of 31 Beijing athletes whose old samples reportedly tested positive, the IOC announced last summer. At the time he announced his intention to appeal.
For that 2008 4 x 100m, Trinidad and Tobago will slide up to the gold, Japan to the silver, and Brazil to the bronze. Big day for Brazil.
So...what actually happens now? Does Usain Bolt have to physically give the medal back? What if he doesn’t want to? Are they going to chase him for it? They’re not going to catch him.
Slate’s Daniel Engber wrote about this back in 2005, and it comes down to the sport’s governing body requesting the return of the medal, under threat of further punishment, including suspensions and bans. Of course, since the athletes asked to give their medals back years after the event are usually already suspended and often too old to compete, a lot of the time they just keep it.
IAAF officials say their requests are ignored about half the time.
Runners-up also have to send in their medals, since they’re due for upgrades. (Here, the recovery rate is nearly 100 percent.)
The IOC appears to prefer to keep its hands clean on confiscating stripped medals, asking officials from the athletes’ countries to handle those transactions. So Bolt will be hearing from Jamaica’s Olympic committee soon.
Bolt already said he has no problem giving his medal back:
“It’s heartbreaking because over the years you’ve worked hard to accumulate gold medals and work hard to be a champion ... but it’s just one of those things,” Bolt told Reuters last summer.
“Things happen in life, so when it’s confirmed or whatever, if I need to give back my gold medal I’d have to give it back, it’s not a problem for me.”
Carter also won gold alongside Bolt in the 4 x 100m relay at the 2012 London games. Carter’s preserved sample from those Olympics is now subject to targeted testing.