In the third of her exclusive blogs for The Mixed Zone, European 400-metres hurdles champion Eilidh Doyle discusses the IAAF’s continuing ban on Russian athletes, and whether individual competitors should be allowed to participate, as well as providing an update on her own Olympic countdown
Last Friday was a really big day for athletics with the IAAF announcing that they’re not lifting the ban on Russia’s track and field team, which means that they can’t compete in Rio. I have to admit that on the morning of the decision, I had a horrible feeling that they were going to let them back in. Not that there was any good reason for letting Russia return: they seem to have done very little to comply, but I wasn’t sure what the IAAF were going to do.
It’s really good that they’re banned from Rio; it’s definitely a step in the right direction. It’s not solving the whole problem, but it’s progress. Hopefully this is the start of rebuilding the trust in the sport, but it’s going to be a very big bridge to get over. At least there won’t be that dark cloud that would have been hanging over the sport had the decision gone the other way. Hopefully now people will now just be talking about great performances.
I know the IAAF are making the right noises, but I still don’t think they’re doing enough. To me, the most disheartening thing is that the IAAF don’t seem to be on the side of the good guys – the clean athletes. It’s all about what they can get for themselves. The corruption is coming from the very top. These are the guys who we’re supposed to trust and it’s very hard to.
Personally, I try not to think about the doping stories too much because it’s just a distraction and there’s nothing I can do about it. I love athletics, so I’d be doing it regardless of whether other people are cheating or not.
But the really hard thing for me is when I see people I know denied medals. I’m good friends with the javelin thrower Goldie Sayers, and she found out that she could be an Olympic medallist during a phone call when she was at a motorway service station. For me, that’s just heart-breaking. She should have had that moment on the podium in Beijing eight years ago. She’s also lost out on sponsorship and endorsements and loads of other things – people often forget about that. It’s the moment that’s so special, not the piece of metal.
When I think back to the Commonwealth Games or the Europeans, I don’t look at my medals, I think about my lap of honour, how I felt standing on the podium and hearing the National Anthem, not the fact that I have a medal somewhere at home.
I know that some clean Russians might be punished as a result of the IAAF’s ruling and that’s not fair on them. But there has to be a punishment like this to send the message out to other countries that this just isn’t on.
Having said all of this, I still think there will still be some Russians on the start-line in Rio. The IOC are due to decide if they will let individual Russian athletes compete so their human rights are not breached. So some will be competing in Rio, but if they’re running, jumping and throwing well, the public will look and think nothing has changed. I think it will be detrimental to the sport if there are any Russians there. It might be harsh on the clean ones, but it’s the fault of their federation and unfortunately the athletes have to pay the price for that.
The last few weeks have been a bit mixed for me. I competed in Rome and though it wasn’t a great race, it was still a decent time. Then I raced in the Birmingham Diamond League and ran well, but was pipped on the line by 0.01 seconds. I was gutted I didn’t win. My most recent race was in Lucerne last week and the times were all a bit slow. So I’m ironing out a few little technical things and I’m pretty confident going into the Olympic trials. I think it will be a good opportunity to run a hard race and get a good time.
I still get nervous, though, because on paper I should qualify for Rio. But that’s not how these things work. I’ve still got to go out there and run the race, and in the hurdles anything can happen. One lapse of concentration and everything can go wrong. I find that I don’t run well if I’m not nervous because it helps me focus fully. It’s about getting the balance right, and not getting so nervous that it affects your race.
It’s the European Championships in a couple of weeks. I won gold there in 2014, but unfortunately I’m not defending my title. British Athletics recommend that if you’re selected for the Olympics, you don’t run the Europeans. They did this in 2012, too. If I’d desperately wanted to run there then I could, but I sat down with my coach, Malcolm Arnold, and looked at the situation. He said that if I really want to be in the best shape possible for the Olympics then he didn’t think the Europeans were a good idea. It’s in situations like this that Malcolm’s great because he’s seen everything before having worked with people like Colin Jackson and Jason Gardener. His common sense is good for me because I’m a bit more emotional when it comes to making these kind of decisions.
It’ll be hard not being able to defend my title because this would have been the first opportunity I would have had to do something like that. So I’m a bit disappointed. But I’ve already won a gold medal, so I can’t do any better than that. I know that it’s all about preparing well for Rio. When I’m watching the final, though, I think the competitor in me will come out and I’ll wish I was in the race. And if it’s won in a slower time than I’ve run this year, I’ll be thinking, ‘Aaaahhh, I could have done it!!’ But it’s all about the bigger picture. I will be going to the Europeans for the 4×400 relay, so it will be a bit of a trial for the Olympics.
The Games are now less than seven weeks away. It’s a tricky one with athletics because our team is selected very late. I’m already getting emails about different things for Rio, but I’ve still not actually been picked for the team. It’s very difficult not to look ahead to the Olympics, even though I’m very much somebody who doesn’t like to focus on it until I’ve got my seat on the plane confirmed.
The way everything has gone this season, it looks like it should all go to plan and I’ll be heading to Brazil. I’ve talked with my coach about my training and race schedule between now and Rio, and it’s tough not being able to think about actually going there next month.
All the hard work has been done so it’s all about ticking over and making sure that everything’s in place. This is the point when you sometimes get a feeling that you want to start pushing it harder, but you have to have confidence in the work you’ve done and just make sure that everything’s on point.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eilidh Doyle (formerly Eilidh Child) is a 400 metres hurdler who has represented GB for the past seven years. She is reigning European champion, as well as having won two Commonwealth silver medals and two World Championship bronze medals. She was a member of Team GB at London 2012 and is currently training for Rio 2016. Eilidh is originally from Perth but is now based in Bath with her husband, Brian, and her dog, Ben. Eilidh’s latest articles.
Eilidh was talking to Susan Egelstaff
Susan Egelstaff is an Olympic badminton player who competed at London 2012, as well as representing Scotland at three Commonwealth Games, winning two bronze medals. She retired in the aftermath of the London Games after a 12-year international career. Having written the occasional article for newspapers while still competing, she decided to try and make sports journalism a job. Susan is now a columnist and sports writer with The Herald, The Sunday Herald and The National and is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Scotland. Susan is also heavily involved with the Winning Scotland Foundation, a charity which helps children achieve their goals. Susan’s latest articles.