Medal reallocation in action: Trinidad and Tobago get men’s 4x100m relay gold from Beijing 2008
05 Jul 2022 – The men’s 4x100m relay team from Trinidad and Tobago have finally received their gold medals from the Olympic Games Beijing 2008. The medals were awarded today at The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Aaron Armstrong, Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender and Richard Thompson received them from International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach.
The ceremony was held in line with the Olympic Medal Reallocation Principles established in 2018 and follows the IOC Executive Board’s decision to reallocate the gold medal after the disqualification of the Jamaican team.
Thompson described the team’s emotions on receiving the medals: “I am very excited and relieved at the same time. This has been a long time coming. We should have originally won these medals 14 years ago, but the circumstances were beyond our control. We are happy that the IOC acted with immediacy and all the relevant bodies continued to do everything they could for the integrity of the sport and the Olympics in general.”
He explained how special it was to have the ceremony at The Olympic Museum: “When you see some of the names that are on the wall here, like Jesse Owens, Michael Phelps, Michael Johnson, Roger Federer – they are greats, they go beyond just sport, they have the ability to reach people from all walks of life and different parts of the globe. So, it is a huge honour for us to be here to donate items of ours as well from the final, and to have a space alongside these people.”
Addressing the athletes, President Bach said: “This is a very special moment. I am very happy that you can share it with your family members present here and that you can share it, hopefully, with so many of your fans back home in Trinidad and Tobago. I think we should salute all your countrymen and women here from Lausanne.”
He went on: “Our feelings are mixed. All of us, and in particular you, would have preferred to have this ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at Beijing 2008 and to share this feeling immediately after your victory, to enjoy it in the emotion of the moment, having crossed the finish line first. On the other hand, and in sport anyway, we should always look on the bright side of life. Finally, justice is being done, and nobody in the Olympic Movement, and in particular in the IOC, just accepted the result of Beijing at the time and forgot about everything. Instead, we took the necessary precautions to make sure that cheats can never feel safe, by storing the samples and by re-analysing the samples when new methods were available to do justice.
“There are two parts of justice: one is to catch and sanction the cheats, but this is not the ultimate goal of what we are doing and intend to do. Our goal is to protect you, the clean athletes. Sanctioning the cheats is just a means to an end. Therefore, we should enjoy this together. We should enjoy and be happy that this could finally happen. Now you can feel the pure joy and satisfaction. You have the final confirmation that you won this Olympic final, that you won this Olympic race, that you won this Olympic gold medal by being clean and fair athletes and by being role models, not only for the young generation in Trinidad and Tobago, but for the athletes around the world.”
The Medal Reallocation Principles were established in 2018 following a recommendation from the IOC Athletes’ Commission. They provide athletes with a menu of options – including a ceremony at The Olympic Museum – to receive their medals in a way that recognises their achievements.
Once the athletes’ decisions are confirmed, the IOC works with the respective National Olympic Committees with the aim of completing the ceremony as soon as possible. For the Trinidad and Tobago team, this has taken longer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The awarding of the men’s 4x100m relay gold to the rightful winners was made possible through the re-analysis of stored anti-doping testing samples from Beijing 2008.
Since Athens 2004, samples have been stored after each Games so they can be re-analysed when new information or more sophisticated detection tests and methods become available. After Rio 2016, the sample storage period was increased from 8 to 10 years.
Ahead of Tokyo 2020, the IOC Executive Board approved a budget of up to USD 5 million to cover the long-term storage for up to 10 years of pre-Games testing samples collected by International Federations and National Anti-Doping Organisations. The programme is managed by the International Testing Agency.