Adam Nelson never got to hear the national anthem playing in his honor at the 2004 Athens Olympics. The American shot put standout didn’t get to sob as he sang along with the words, a gold medal dangling from his neck.
He missed out on that moment when he ended up with a silver that day — behind a winner who was recently exposed as a drug cheat.
The International Olympic Committee executive board just disqualified four athletes whose Athens doping samples were retested earlier this year and came back positive for steroids, including shot put gold medalist Yuriy Bilonog of Ukraine.
There’s been no decision on whether the medals will be reallocated and, really, Nelson doesn’t care as much as he does about this: A cheater got caught.
“It’s not just a victory for me, but a victory for the system,” Nelson said in a phone interview Friday. “I can’t dwell on what happened or didn’t happen eight years ago. I can only look forward to what the next phase in life brings. At least now I can do that with a gold medal.” Or so he hopes.
The IOC said it will ask the International Association of Athletics Federations to get the four medals back and readjust the results and rankings from the Athens Games.
Until then, no actions will be taken regarding the medals.
Medal or no medal, though, he knows he’s the rightful winner.
Now if he could only locate his silver medal, just in case he is upgraded. Nelson tucked it away in a sock drawer years ago and thinks his wife may have moved it into the attic.
This has nothing to do with being sore over taking second, but more about never being one to display his trophies. He also captured a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Games and several more at world championships.
Nelson just recently retired from competition and is living in Athens, Georgia, where he’s opening a sports performance center and volunteering his time to help raise awareness for rare diseases.
“Hearing those amazing stories and personal triumphs — and the losses — that really puts things in perspective,” Nelson said. “It’s been an inspiration.” He found out about the decision to strip Bilonog on his way out of town Wednesday. Ever since, his phone has been buzzing with well-wishers.