EUGENE, Oregon — A distraught Alysia Montano called her career “a farce” and branded the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) “a corrupt institution” after crashing out of the US Olympic trials on Monday.
The 800-meter runner, who believes she has been denied at least three global medals by dope cheats, had hoped this would be the year she finally made the Olympic podium.
But with less than 100 meters to go in Monday’s final she became entangled with Brenda Martinez and fell to the track, eventually finishing dead last. That ended any hope of her going to Rio since only the top three finishers in the cut-throat trials advance.
“It doesn’t really settle in in that moment where you’re thinking, ‘This is it,’“ Montano said about the split second when she hooked shoes with Martinez, who was stumbling after making contact with the leader and eventual runner-up, Ajee Wilson. “And then, you get up and they’re really far away. Your heart breaks.”
Montano did get up. She jogged a bit, then stopped, fell to her knees and began to wail as she kicked her foot to the ground in disgust. She got up again and ran to the finish line, then collapsed to her knees, put her head on the ground, looked skyward, clutched her right hand to her heart and let out a primal wail.
“All of a sudden, they came around the corner and she wasn’t there,” said her husband, Louis, who was watching from the side with their daughter, Linnea, who turns 2 next month. “It was heartbreaking.”
Officials reviewed the tape and deemed the smashup a result of incidental contact. They did not disqualify anyone. Asked if she would protest, Montano replied: “What good would that do me?”
If anyone would know, it would be her.
The woman who showed her devotion to the sport by running on this track two years ago when she was eight months pregnant made herself the poster child for all athletes who’ve been robbed over the past several years by what investigators say is a state-sponsored Russian system that encourages doping among the country’s athletes.
“I’m missing three medals in like eight years of my life as a professional runner,” said the 30-year-old defending US champion, who believes she lost medals because of cheating rivals at the 2011 and 2013 world championships.
Fifth at the 2012 Olympics, Montano has since seen both winner Mariya Savinova and bronze medallist Ekaterina Poistogova, both Russians, accused of doping by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report.
“My entire professional career has been a farce basically,” said the emotional Montano. “Now everyone is talking about the Russians not running in the Olympics but they are missing the whole point that the IAAF is a corrupt institution which is still running the game for us professional athletes.”
The IAAF was not immediately available for comment.
“Trying not to take that anger with me to today and still try to be in the sport, knowing that who’s been running the show have been using us all along. That’s why it was an emotional struggle for me,” Montano said.
She had cruised into the final and, for 600 meters, everything looked fine. Boxed on the inside in years past, she did what she’d been practicing all spring — moving out to Lane 3 to stay out of trouble and make her final push. She was vying for third place when the contact started.
“I saw tripping. Brenda start to trip and Alysia start to fall,” said Kate Grace, who picked an inside route and coasted past the trouble for the victory.
And Montano saw some dreams slip away.
“There’s a lot of healing,” she said, “that has to happen beyond this race.”
With Reuters and AP
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