Gold at last for Latvia's Sochi 2014 four-man bobsleigh champions

The Latvian four-man bob team, piloted by Oskars Melbardis, collected gold medals in a special reallocation ceremony in Sigulda

By Ken Browne ·

Oskars Melbardis, Daumants Dreiskens, Arvis Vilkaste and Janis Strenga finally have their Olympic gold medals.

The Latvian quartet were awarded their medals and celebrated winning the Sochi 2014 four-man bobsleigh competition in front of a home crowd in Sigulda on Saturday (15 February) during the European Championships.

Driver Melbardis and his team finished second in the four-man at the Sochi Games but were promoted to first by the International Olympic Committee after doping violations saw the Russian team disqualified.

They were presented with their medals at a special ceremony on the sidelines of the final race of the IBSF World Cup 2019/2020 season in Sigulda which doubled up as the European Championships.

The medals were presented by International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) president Ivo Ferriani with the event broadcast live on Latvian TV.

Earlier, Melbardis and Dreiskens received bronze medals for the two-man bob after they were upgraded from fourth to third following further Russian doping transgressions.

Latvia four-man team receive Sochi gold medals

The Latvian four-man bobsleigh team of Oskars Melbardis, Arvis Vilkaste, Da...

Doping cheats caught

At the Sochi Olympics, Russian pilot Alexsandr Zubkov won gold in the four and two-man bobsleigh.

Zubkov was one of a number of Russian athletes suspected of doping violations at the Games with an investigation carried out by the IOC Disciplinary Commission, chaired by Executive Board member Denis Oswald.

Its findings proved their guilt with Zubkov, who served as flagbearer for the hosts in the Opening Ceremony, disqualified and his results annulled.

Zubkov, who also served as president of the Russian Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, has been banned from the Olympic Games for life.

Another Russian two-man team piloted by Alexander Kasyanov, which placed fourth in Sochi, was also disqualified for doping violations.

Steven Holcomb receives two silver medals posthumously

USA pilot Steven Holcomb was also affected by cheating in the same events.

Tragically, the medal reallocation came after his untimely death at just 37 with his family receiving his two silver medals from Sochi on his behalf.

Holcomb piloted the USA two-man and four-man bob teams which finished third at the Games having won four-man gold at Vancouver 2010.

Read more on his story here.

Medal Reallocation Ceremonies

This latest medal reallocation in Latvia follows a host of others that have given rightful Olympic winners the dignity of a ceremony befitting their achievements.

Lidia Valentin, Nobuharu Asahara, Betty Heidler, Austra Skujyte, Christine Girard are just some of the other Olympians who have been reallocated medals.

It's often an emotional day.

Olympic Channel has been following and documenting the stories of clean athletes who receive the recognition they deserve in the series Take The Podium.

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"I'm finally the Olympic champion"

Spanish weightlifter Lidia Valentin has another tale of redemption.

She had failed to make the podium at London 2012, finishing fourth, a single kilo outside the medal places.

But when samples were re-analysed using new techniques, all three athletes who were on the podium that day were found to be using banned substances.

Svetlana Podobedova of Kazakstan, Russian lifter Natalya Zabolotnaya, and Belarus' Iryna Kulesha were all stripped of their medals.

In February 2019 - six-and-a-half years later - Valentin finally felt what it meant to be Olympic champion.

Surrounded by family, the 34-year-old received her gold medal at a ceremony organised by the Spanish Olympic Committee in Madrid.

"I'm finally the Olympic champion. I'm so excited. I still can't believe it. It is one of the happiest days of my life." - Lydia Valentin to Olympic Channel

“I wasn’t able to enjoy being on the podium at the time but the important thing is that the cheaters have been caught,” Valentin said.

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Fair Sport, Clean Sport

“I can only imagine the disappointment of athletes who have had their special moment taken away due to cheating,” said Kirsty Coventry, a two-time Olympic swimming champion and chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission.

She was reacting after the approval of the Olympic Medal Reallocation Principles by the IOC in May 2018.

“Medal reallocation ceremonies are very important for fair sport, for clean sport, for the athletes, and being able to reward athletes who have embodied these values is very important.”

“I can only imagine the disappointment of athletes who have had their special moment taken away due to cheating” - Kirsty Coventry

“It’s very moving to see these athletes finally recognised for their Olympic achievements,” said Danka Bartekova, an Olympic shooting medallist and vice-chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission.

“Their stories have and continue to inspire many people around the world. Now that justice is served, it is fantastic to see that clean athletes are honoured and celebrated in a meaningful way.”

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Your way

Prior to the recommendation of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, there was no standardised reallocation process with athletes receiving medals at home or at the offices of their National Olympic Committees with little or no publicity.

Some were even handed medals in car parks, or held makeshift Olympic ceremonies in back gardens.

Athletes now have six choices as to how they wish to celebrate their special moment:

  1. The next Olympic Games
  2. The Youth Olympic Games
  3. The IOC headquarters or Olympic Museum
  4. At a National Olympic Committee function
  5. At an International Federation event or function
  6. A private ceremony