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U.S. hurdler Lashinda Demus will get Olympic gold medal 12 years after she lost to Russian who was doping

Russian skater finishes fourth amid doping scandal
Russian skater Kamila Valieva finishes fourth amid doping scandal 01:36

There's no making up for what Olympic hurdler Lashinda Demus lost on the day she finished .07 seconds behind a Russian opponent who, everyone later learned, was doping. What the American 400-meter hurdles champion will finally receive is a great day under the Eiffel Tower where she'll be presented with the gold medal she was denied 12 years ago at the London Olympics

Demus, now 41 and the mother of four boys, said so much time had passed that she wasn't all that excited when she learned last year that the medal first captured by Natalya Antyukh would go to her.

"But one thing I did know was that I was on an international stage," Demus said. "And whatever happens, I wanted to receive this upgrade on an international stage."

With the help of a lawyer and the determination not to take the IOC's first offer — normally a presentation at a national or world championship — Demus negotiated a deal to receive the medal on Aug. 9 at the Paris Olympics, at the Champions Park in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. This will mark the first time the IOC has held a "reallocation" ceremony at a Summer Games.

OLY Paris 2024
The Olympic rings are set up in Paris, France, overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Michel Euler/AP

Demus will bring her husband and kids along for the trip. She has started a GoFundMe page to raise money to bring parents, maybe her grandmother and other friends and family. In the GoFundMe, Demus wrote that the IOC and Olympic officials are "only able to partially fund this trip of a lifetime for my family and I," and said that donations would be used to pay for "airfare, meals, hotel, and Olympic tickets" in Paris.  

Demus said she holds no ill will against the IOC for the decade-plus that it took to get this medal to her. But she wanted more than a mere pro forma commemoration of the moment. What she really wanted was a ceremony at the track stadium, but the IOC told her that wasn't possible. The Eiffel Tower isn't a bad backup plan.

"I would have appreciated a little more, I guess, glitz and glam for people who are receiving their medals" belatedly, Demus said. "It's a work in progress. I'm pushing on in good faith. I'm glad I'm at the forefront in this. I can literally say that I am the trailblazer of this movement."

Among the others slated to receive medals that day will be Zuzana Hejnová of the Czech Republic and Kaliese Spencer of Jamaica, who finished behind Demus in the 400. Also in the group of 10: American high jumper Erik Kynard, who finished second to another Russian found to be doping.

Demus estimates she lost in the seven figures when it came to what she could have earned had she returned home in 2012 as a gold medalist. She had battled injuries all that season and felt getting to the starting line at the Olympics was a victory of sorts.

When Antyukh beat her to the finish line by less than half a step, Demus said it crossed her mind that the Russian had never beaten her before.

Demus Gets Gold Athletics
Russia's Natalya Antyukh, middle, United States' Lashinda Demus, left, and Czech Republic's Zuzana Hejnova, right, during a medals ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Matt Slocum/AP

"But it wasn't in my mindset that anyone who beats me is automatically dirty. I didn't let that infiltrate my thinking," she said. "I just kind of accepted that I lost and I tried my best to move on. But it was a five- or six-year process of me just getting over failing at something I'd trained my whole life to do."

Not until details emerged about a widespread Russian doping scandal that began in the early 2010s did Demus start viewing her loss in a different light. Even then, it took years for Antyukh to be tagged for doping.

After stepping away from the sport for a handful of years, Demus is back coaching at Culver City High School near Los Angeles. She works as a clinical researcher for a medical care company. She has 16-year-old twin boys and two more sons, ages 4 and 5.

She said she's thrilled that she'll get to feel like a gold medalist this summer at the Olympics, even if the prize will come some 12 years after her race was run.

She also is under no illusions that her journey to gold — 400 meters, plus 4,384 days — will mark a grand turning point in the fight against doping in world sports. Due to doping and, this year, the war in Ukraine, the last Olympics the Russians will have brought a full track team to remains the same 2012 Games that eventually made Demus an Olympic champion.

"It doesn't break my heart," she said. "But what comes to mind is that (doping) is never going to leave. I don't think anything has changed since the big Russian scandal. I think it's always going to be there."

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