Hundreds of people came out to the Vancouver Art Gallery on Friday to see Beckie Scott finally receive her gold medal for the five-kilometre free pursuit at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Members of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), Cross Country Canada (CCC), the Canadian sport community including many athletes and Olympians, as well as cheering fans were on-hand to witness the historic day in Canadian sport.
“This is an exciting day and I am thrilled to be the first Canadian winter-sport athlete to receive a gold medal at home in Canada,” said Scott. “Today signifies the end of a really long journey, and is the culmination of some really strong efforts both on and off the snow. I am extremely appreciative of the ongoing support that I have received from the Canadian Olympic Committee, my teammates and the general public since we all celebrated Canada’s first-ever cross-country skiing medal together in Salt Lake City.”
“I could not be happier that this day has finally arrived,” said COC President Michael Chambers. “The Canadian Olympic Committee and its supporters have been working towards this for the past 28 months. It may be the longest gold medal race in history, but we won and we are thrilled to present Beckie with her well deserved and long overdue gold medal.”
Originally, two Russian skiers, Olga Danilova and Larissa Lazutina, had been awarded the gold and silver medals respectively in the five-kilometre free pursuit. Immediately after the Games, the COC filed an appeal on behalf of Scott in response to the fact that Danilova and Lazutina were expelled from the Games following a positive test result for a banned substance in their February 21, 2002 doping sample, but were permitted to retain their medals from earlier races including the five-kilometre pursuit race on February 15.
Subsequently, in June 2003, Scott was awarded the silver medal for the pursuit race when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stripped Lazutina of her 2002 Olympic results because of a positive sample taken prior to the Olympic Games, the results of which were only discovered after the Games. However, Danilova remained in possession of the gold medal. On September 9, 2003, the COC was finally able to present its appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), contending that any Olympian whose conduct justifies expulsion from the Olympic Games should lose all medals awarded at those Games. On December 18, 2003 the CAS ordered the IOC to award Scott the disputed gold medal.
The Court’s decision to award Scott gold makes her North America’s first cross-country Olympic champion.
“The fight against doping has been a team battle for all Canadians in sport,” said Léopold Nadeau, President of Cross Country Canada. “Today the journey is over as we celebrate not only a gold medal for Beckie Scott, but the first Winter Olympic gold medal ever presented in our country to a Canadian athlete. Cross Country Canada is hopeful this is the beginning of a bright future that will be filled with many more Olympic gold medal celebrations for national team athletes as we all strive to achieve our collective goal of becoming number one at the 2010 Games.”