Lynsey Sharp says drugs are a 'huge problem' in athletics

Lynsey Sharp

Lynsey Sharp says drugs are a "huge problem" in athletics after being upgraded to European 800m gold following a doping scandal.

Scotland's athlete of the year is now 2012 European champion after Russian Yelena Arzhakova received a two-year doping ban.

"It's a huge problem," Sharp, 22, told BBC Scotland.

"There's a lot of people being caught, but it's nothing compared to the amount of people getting away with it."

Arzhakova was banned following an "abnormal haemoglobin profile in her biological passport" and Sharp believes the issue of drug cheating is a "depressing" problem for athletics and much more common than is widely known.

During 2011, there were 23,799 drugs tests in athletics, 234 of which showed the presence of a prohibited substance, metabolite or marker.

Athletics was the second most tested Olympic sport behind football, which saw 172 positive results requiring further investigation, from 28,578 tests.

"If you spoke to any athlete, they would say there's a lot of people who get away with it and probably don't get caught," said Sharp.

"I'm trying to see the positives, but at the same time you're thinking 'what's the point in this?' if this sort of thing happens.

"It's so disappointing that it's still an issue in the sport. The 800m in particular is pretty bad for it; it's depressing.

"This is someone (Arzhakova) I've competed against for the last two years. I've felt like I've got to know her and we would acknowledge each other and smile and say hi. It's disappointing, but at the same time I'm happy she's been caught."

Sharp ran a personal best of two minutes 1.52 seconds in Helsinki last June but finished 2.01 seconds behind winner Arzhakova.

"I killed myself that day - it was my fourth race in a week and I gave it my all in the last 100 metres," she said.

"I literally feel I gave the most that day in that field, so it's nice to eventually be rewarded with a gold medal."

Sharp was a controversial pick for Team GB for London 2012 after being chosen ahead of Jemma Simpson, Marilyn Okoro, Emma Jackson and Jenny Meadows despite failing to record the Olympic qualifying time.

She reached the semi-finals in London but failed to qualify for a final in which Arzhakova finished sixth. The gold medal was won by Russia's Mariya Savinova in 1:56.19.

Sharp, however, says she is happy to now call herself European champion.

"It's a great feeling, but there's loads of emotions," she said. "I was honestly happy I've been upgraded, but at the same time disappointed that another athlete in the sport and my event has been done.

"And I'm also disappointed that I wasn't able to do a lap of honour and stand on the podium and have my national anthem playing and be European champion from that day.

Should Arzhakova choose not to challenge her suspension or fails with an appeal, Scottish Athletics could host a medal ceremony for Sharp, possibly at their annual awards dinner in the autumn.

Sharp added: "That would be awesome. It would be nice to experience that. It would be a nice touch."

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