Doping-hit Turkish athletes fail at European Championship

Doping-hit Turkish athletes fail at European Championship

Doping-hit Turkish athletes fail at European Championship

Kenyan-origin Turkish athletes Ali Kaya (R) and Polat Kemboi Arıkan hold the Turkish flag as they pose after competing in the men’s 10,000-meter final during the European Athletics Championships at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich. Kaya finished third in the final while Arıkan came in fourth. AFP Photo

Turkish athletics has failed to recover at the 2014 European Athletics Championship in Zurich from last year’s doping scandal that saw several Turkish athletes, including Olympic 1,500-meter champion Aslı Çakır Alptekin, banned from their sports.

Turkey had won four gold medals, two silvers and a bronze at the 2012 European Athletics Championship in Helsinki, however this year, the country settled only for a bronze medal, which was brought by Ali Kaya – of Kenyan origin – in the men’s 10,000-meter competition.

After two successful seasons for Turkish athletes, including a one-two finish at the women’s 1,500-meter event at the 2012 London Olympics, Turkish athletics was rocked by doping scandals last year.

In June, 2013, eight Turkish athletes, including 2004 Olympic hammer silver medalist Eşref Apak, were caught doping, and dozens reportedly failed tests ahead of the Mediterranean Games.

In August, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced a two-year ban for nine Turkish athletes, including two teenagers, who tested positive for anabolic steroids.

The scandals resulted in the resignation of the Turkish Athletics Federation President Mehmet Terzi, who was replaced by Fatih Çintimar.

Çintimar told Anadolu Agency in Zurich that Turkish athletics was still recovering from the damage done by the scandals, but there was no excuse for the failure at the European Championships.

“We did not get what we expected, our athletes could not compete here,” Çintimar said. “We have our part in this failure as the federation and we will do our best to better prepare our athletes for the future events.”

The federation chief, however, was happy Turkey could no longer be accused of doping.

“Last year, Turkey was the leading European country in doping, but this year, we have a zero-tolerance policy and we have not had a single athlete caught this year. We failed, but at least no one will be able to tell us ‘you cheated,’” he said.

Çintimar said the doping bans and suspensions have seriously decreased the number of Turkish athletes available for tournaments.

“We also have athletes who have suddenly decided to quit,” he said. “Even athletes between the ages of 23-24 who won gold medals at the last European championship quit their sports, without giving any reason. I believe there are personal reasons for a 24-year-old European champion to quit so early. We lost around 20 athletes in similar situations.”