BEIJING (AP) - Already outspoken about doping in his sport, Australian race walker Jared Tallent took another shot at Russia after earning a silver medal in the 50-kilometer event Saturday at the world championships.
Tallent has two silver medals from the Olympics, both times losing to men who have been suspended for doping.
“First time in a long time in the 50K we’ve had a clean podium,” Tallent said after finishing behind gold medalist Matej Toth of Slovakia. “I’ll be pretty happy standing on the podium (today) with those two guys. It’s a good day for the sport.”
In the past year, race walking went from being one of the most overlooked events at the world championships to receiving the worst kind of attention amid a massive doping scandal in Russia.
With Russia holding its team out this year’s races in Beijing, Toth stepped his way to the gold in the 50K in 3 hours, 40 minutes, 32 seconds, more than a minute ahead of Tallent. Takayuki Tanii of Japan took the bronze.
Russia’s race-walking program - led by the now-retired coach Viktor Chegin at a national training center in the city of Saransk - has come under intense scrutiny this year after a German documentary alleged systematic doping. Numerous Olympic champions have also been suspended for doping, including Sergei Kirdyapkin, who beat Tallent for the gold in the 50K at the 2012 London Games.
Last month, Russia decided to pull its men’s and women’s race-walking teams from international competitions for the time being, including the world championships in Beijing. One Russian walker had been cleared to compete in Beijing, but he didn’t travel to China amid Russian reports he also tested positive for doping.
“I’m sure that today was much cleaner than with the Russians,” Toth said. “It’s great for athletics and walking (that) they are not here.”
Tallent, who also has two bronze medals from previous world championships, had even harsher words for his Russian competitors: “They’re a disgrace. Their whole federation is a disgrace.”
Both men said they planned to boycott the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Russia next year - one of the most important events for race walkers and a key competition in the run-up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Tallent and Australian teammate Chris Erickson, who finished in 13th place, said many other race walkers were likely to join them.
“It’s a really big shame that the IAAF, even with all these problems, have still pushed ahead with having the event there. It’s really disrespectful to all the clean athletes,” Tallent said. “Why would any clean athlete want to go and compete in Russia at a World Cup?”
Compared to the doping scandal, the 50-kilometer race itself in Beijing was issue-free. The most talked-about moment was a quick bathroom break taken by Toth midway through the race while he was holding a 50-second lead over the field.
“Sometimes you need to go to the toilet,” the Slovak said. “I knew it was better for me to stop for 20 or 30 seconds than to continue uncomfortable.”
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