Men’s relay team get their bronze medals - at last!
Guardian Sports Editor
Published: Jul 30, 2013
With nearly the entire American men’s 4x400 meters (m) relay team from the 2000 Sydney Olympics linked to doping, in some form or fashion, it was only a matter of time before The Bahamas would be upgraded to the bronze medalists, and that came to fruition yesterday as four deserving men received their long awaited bronze medals.
After 13 years of back and forth rhetoric surrounding the event, former World Champion Avard Moncur, former national record holder Troy McIntosh, Carl Oliver and Timothy Munnings finally received their bronze medals in a special awards luncheon staged by the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) at the British Colonial Hotel yesterday. The luncheon was held as a part of the nation’s 40th independence anniversary celebrations. A fifth runner, Chris ‘The Fireman’ Brown, was absent from the proceedings and will receive his medal at a later date. With Brown being a member of this year’s World Championships’ team, his Bahamian passport is currently in Cuba being processed for a Russian visa, so he was unable to travel back to The Bahamas from his home base in Atlanta.
In Sydney, Australia in 2000, The Bahamas’ team of Moncur, McIntosh, Oliver and Brown, in that order, finished fourth on the track, in 2:59.23. That same quartet ran 2:59.02 in the heats, which was a national record at that time. Munnings ran the heats. The American team of Alvin Harrison, Antonio Pettigrew, Calvin Harrison and Michael Johnson crossed the finish line first in 2:56.35, the Nigerian anchor leg ran past The Bahamas and Jamaica to give that nation the silver medal at that time, in 2:58.68, and Jamaica crossed the finish line in third place, in 2:58.78. It wasn’t until last summer, right before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England, that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to re-allocate the medals. With the United States disqualified due to doping, Nigeria, Jamaica and The Bahamas were moved up to the gold, silver and bronze medalists respectively.
Moncur, who led off the relay in Sydney, said he looks at this moment from the perspective of three men who stood beside Brown and himself from the beginning – McIntosh, Oliver and Munnings.
“They were the trailblazers of this entire movement. They were robbed of their right to be called Olympic medalists, and today, retribution not only comes to The Bahamas, but to those three men as well,” said Moncur. “Troy, Carl and Tim created a movement that inspired a generation, and because of them, we are the Olympic Champions in the men’s 4x400m relay today. Now, they are among a small group of Bahamians who can call themselves Olympic medalists, and they certainly deserve it. To our family, the government, the business sector, and all Bahamians, we are truly grateful and we thank you for supporting us. It feels good. To be able to hold it in your hand is a great feeling, especially to be able to do it here at home. I feel really proud of this moment,” he added.
McIntosh, who ran the second leg for The Bahamas in Sydney, said that it’s a great feeling.
“In my career, I had every medal with the exception of two - the Olympics and the Indoor World Championships. Now, I could say that I have all with the exception of the indoor worlds, and to get it in the year that the country is celebrating 40 years is a great feeling. I’m celebrating 40 years this year as well, so for me, it’s significant and it’s now some closure for us,” said McIntosh. “Over the past 13 years, there was a lot of up and down emotions. For it to finally happen now, it is truly exciting for all of us.”
Oliver, who ran the third leg for The Bahamas, said that he was just glad to be a part of a great group of guys and one of the pacesetters in the men’s 4x400m relay.
“Avard mentioned that guys like myself, Dennis [Darling], Troy and Tim actually started this Olympic renaissance around 1995, and here it is now almost 20 years later, we have gold, silver and bronze. I’m just very excited about it,” said Oliver. “It seems as if every time the IAAF took the matter to court, the guys from the U.S. would appeal and win the appeal. Finally, it worked in our favor, and we are just truly elated.”
National record holder in the men’s 400m Brown anchored that relay team in 2000, and now he has all three Olympic relay medals in the men’s 4x400m – bronze in 2000 in Sydney, silver in 2008 in Beijing, and gold last year in London. He received the baton in second place on his anchor leg in Sydney but faded to fourth down the back stretch. Now, he has that much deserved bronze medal.
Brown said from Atlanta, Georgia yesterday that it certainly loses some of its luster, but he is grateful to God nonetheless.
“It’s a huge accomplishment and a great feeling,” he said. “I’m happy and excited for my teammates especially, and that they could call themselves Olympic medalists. To know that all of those years past by and we didn’t get them, it was almost as if, if it happens, it happens, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m hoping that I can get it before I leave for the world championships – to add to my collection. That would be great. God is good. He has been blessing me, and I’m very thankful and very grateful for all of the accolades that I have received. To still be consistent after all these years, the Lord has truly been blessing me and I’m just thankful and happy that I have all three Olympic medals now.”
Munnings ran the rounds for The Bahamas.
“It is a bittersweet feeling for us because whereas we are happy to receive the medal, we would have liked to get them in Sydney. We are thankful that we have been able to compete all these years drug-free, and now we have our just reward,” he said.
BOC President Wellington Miller said that one positive outlook that came out of this medal re-allocation is that Bahamians “now have the opportunity to see Bahamian heroes presented with Olympic medals in their home town.”
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr. Daniel Johnson said it is so important to let the athletes know that they are appreciated and supported.
“What The Bahamas witnesses today is the culmination of a lot of hard work in the drive of five young men,” said the minister. “This shows us that when we come together as a team, when we come together as a country, we always win. Today, this is more than just a medal ceremony. This is a symbol of what could be achieved when we come together as one, how good you could be when you incorporate teamwork in your national philosophy, and a symbol of perseverance. When you give your very best, what is yours is coming to you and nobody can take it away.”
In delivering the keynote address, Prime Minister Perry Christie congratulated the men on the honor, and reiterated his government’s intention to construct sporting facilities in all of the islands of The Bahamas to assist the development of young athletes on the Family Islands. He said that will take immediate effect.
On July 18, 2004, the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) ruled that American runner Jerome Young, who ran the heats and semis in Sydney, was ineligible to compete due to doping and annulled all his past results, including those achieved as part of relay teams. Therefore, the U.S. team was stripped of the gold medal, but on July 22, 2005, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland overturned the decision and restored the original finish of the race.
However, in June 2008, Antonio Pettigrew admitted in the Trevor Graham perjury trial that he cheated to win by using banned performance-enhancing drugs. Pettigrew, who reportedly took HGH (human growth hormone) and EPO (erythropoietin) from 1997 to 2001, agreed to return his gold medal from the 2000 Olympics. He later committed suicide, overdosing on a drug common to sleeping pills, according to an autopsy report in 2010. World record holder in the men’s 400m Johnson (43.18) stated that he felt “cheated, betrayed and let down” by his former friend and teammate Pettigrew, and also announced that he would return his gold medal.
Even twins Calvin and Alvin Harrison, who made history by becoming the first twins ever to compete together on the same relay team since the inception of the modern Olympics, were linked to performance-enhancing drugs over the past 13 years, and consequently accepted separate doping bans. Quite frankly, a cloud of suspicion was over the entire team with the exception of world record holder Johnson. The IOC formally withdrew the U.S. gold medals on August 2, 2008, for a second time, but delayed re-allocating the medals pending information received from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) doping investigation. The IOC finally decided to re-allocate the medals on July 21, 2012, giving Nigeria the gold; Jamaica, the silver and The Bahamas, the bronze. Nigerian runner Sunday Bada, who ran the third leg in that Olympic final, died in 2011 and never got the opportunity to receive his gold medal.
As for The Bahamas, the bronze medal from the men’s 4x400m relay is now the third for the country from those Sydney Olympic Games, and the 11th Olympic medal for the country in total. The three medals in Sydney, a gold from Pauline Davis-Thompson in the women’s 200m, the gold from the ‘Golden Girls’ – Davis-Thompson, Savatheda Fynes, Chandra Sturrup, Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie and Eldece Clarke – in the 4x100m relay and now the bronze in the men’s 4x400m relay, are the most ever for The Bahamas at a single Olympiad.
The medal re-allocation in the men’s 4x400m from Sydney is also the second time that The Bahamas has been upgraded in the medal standings due to doping by others. At that same Olympics, Davis-Thompson was upgraded to the gold medalist in the women’s 200m due to doping by American disgraced athlete Marion Jones.