Eilidh Doyle, the two-time Commonwealth silver medallist, has admitted that the recent investigations into Russian sport which uncovered evidence of widespread, state-sponsored doping within the country have left her struggling to trust any Russian athlete, writes Susan Egelstaff.
The build-up to the Rio Olympic Games has been dominated by the Russian doping scandal. Evidence emerged late last year that the country’s track and field team was systematically doped and then the release of the McLaren report a couple of weeks ago gave evidence of Russian officials systematically destroying and swapping thousands of urine samples that may have been positive.
The entire Russian track and field team, with the exception of the long-jumper, Darya Klishina, who is based in America, has been banned from competing in Rio but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stopped short of imposing a blanket ban on the entire Russian team. Instead, each individual sport’s international federation will make the decision as to whether Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in Rio. It is, admits Doyle, not a wholly satisfactory resolution to a far from ideal situation, with her trust in Russian athletes having been shattered over the past few months.
Speaking exclusively to Sportswoman Magazine, Doyle said: “It’s a good thing that the track and field athletes are banned but for the IOC not to put a blanket ban on Russia is, I think, a bit of a cop out.
“Personally, I just can’t trust any Russian athlete. I do feel sorry for any of them who are clean but I think that a precedent needs to be set and it needs to be shown that this kind of cheating is not ok. We need to think about the public who are watching – the Olympics are supposed to be this magical event and you don’t want people to be watching athletes with Russian vests on because it just puts a dark cloud over the Games.”
As Rio’s Opening Ceremony approaches though, Doyle will purge any thoughts of competitors’ behaviour from her mind and focus her concentration solely on herself.
The 29 year-old, from Perth, is in the form of her life and her Olympic preparations couldn’t be shaping up any better; the last few months have seen her claim two Diamond League victories, in Doha and Monaco, a European gold medal in the 4x400m relay and a personal best. It has been the ideal build-up for the 400m hurdler as she prepares for her second Olympic Games and she admits that her recent performances have done her confidence no harm at all.
She said: “When I won in Monaco and set a new PB, I was actually annoyed with myself as I crossed the line because I was thinking that it could have been better. But what’s really encouraging is that is wasn’t the perfect race by any means but I still managed to win a Diamond League and run a PB so it’s exciting to know that I can still do better. It’s really exciting to be heading to Rio in such good form.”
‘I just can’t trust any Russian athlete. I do feel sorry for any of them who are clean but it needs to be shown that cheating is not ok’
Doyle’s final pre-Olympic outing came at the Anniversary Games in London, where she finished fourth. Her somewhat downbeat reaction to that result says much about the improvement that she has made over the past year. She added: “It’s a good sign that I’m finishing fourth in a Diamond League and I’m disappointed. Even as recently as last year, I would have been delighted with a fourth-place finish but this year, I was annoyed that I messed up the last hurdle.”
Doyle is one of a record-breaking 15 Scottish track and field athletes who have been selected for Team GB for Rio but she is one of only a handful who are being talked about as having medal potential. Doyle is currently ranked sixth in the world but with four Americans ahead of her and only three allowed to compete, there is no doubt that Doyle could well be in the mix for a podium spot in a few weeks time.
It is not something that she allows herself to become consumed by though. “I take it as a compliment that people are mentioning me as having medal potential because it means that I must be running well. Personally though, I never think about medals because I can’t control that: all I can control is my own performance.”
The last few years have taught Doyle valuable lessons in dealing with pressure. She was the face of the 2014 Commonwealth Games and, she believes, that experience has set her up nicely for dealing with the expectations of an Olympic Games.
“Glasgow 2014 really helped me because I’ll never be under that type of pressure again and I’ll never get that kind of attention again. Now I know that when I was under pressure and when I had all of that attention on me, I was able to deliver. So I’m able to draw on that experience now which is really useful.”