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Canada's Drouin feels for the London Olympic runner-up, whose moment was stole

TORONTO — Derek Drouin had the opportunity to stand on the top of the medal podium while "O Canada" played and the Maple Leaf went up at both the 2015 world championships and 2016 Rio Olympics. So when the 28-year-old from Corunna, Ont.

TORONTO — Derek Drouin had the opportunity to stand on the top of the medal podium while "O Canada" played and the Maple Leaf went up at both the 2015 world championships and 2016 Rio Olympics.

So when the 28-year-old from Corunna, Ont., learned that Ivan Ukhov had been disqualified from the 2012 London Olympics, where the Russian won gold and Drouin finished third, his thoughts went immediately to American Erik Kynard, and his stolen moment.

Pending appeals, Drouin's bronze medal in London should be upgraded to silver, while Kynard will receive gold.

"But it's not the same," Drouin said. "The thing that bothers me the most about this situation is I feel bad for the silver medallist, who was never given the chance to listen to his own national anthem at the Olympics. Speaking from experience, it's something that I'll never forget, and it's something that he should have experienced, and he might never now."

Ukhov was one of 12 Russian track and field athletes who were found guilty on Friday of state-backed doping. The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Ukhov has been disqualified from the 2012 Games, while hammer thrower Tatyana Lysenko and high jumper Svetlana Shkolina also have been disqualified after winning gold at the 2013 world championships.

The CAS ruled the athletes "participated in and/or benefited from anabolic steroid doping" in the period before the London Olympics and through the 2013 worlds in Moscow.

Drouin pointed out that nobody in his event at the London Games missed standing on the podium. Because he was one of three jumpers who tied for bronze along with Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Robert Grabarz of Great Britain, there was no fourth-place finisher.

Kynard also missed out on the intangibles that come with a gold medal. How much money and support did the American lose for finishing second that he would have received as a gold medallist?

"Totally," Drouin said.

Drouin said he was surprised to learn — through being tagged Friday on Twitter — of Ukhov's disqualification.

"I think that I approach every competition, I approach the sport in a naive way where I assume everybody is clean and everybody is doing it fairly," he said. "And it's easy to say that, but judging by how surprised I was yesterday, I think I genuinely am naive to what's going on in the sport."

On the plus side, cheaters are getting caught, which "obviously that's great for the sport," Drouin said.

"Right now it's not painting the sport in a very good light unfortunately, but I think if we're thinking of the future of athletics, and the future of clean sport, we've got to go through some dark areas unfortunately, to get to that positive end," he said. "I think this is promising that we're working toward that, and eventually the drug testers will be ahead of the dopers and ahead of science. But it sucks that we have to go through a little bit of a dark period at the moment."

The redistribution of medals might take awhile. Canadian Dylan Armstrong received his shot put bronze medal seven years after he finished fourth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and two years after Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus was found guilty of doping and was eventually stripped of his bronze. 

"It's great to see cheats getting caught no matter the timeline, but unfortunately the affected athletes have been robbed of their moment, that you can never get back," said Mathieu Gentes, the chief operating officer for Athletics Canada.

There's a feeling of camaraderie among high jumpers at international competitions, and Drouin said, despite the language barrier, he had a friendly relationship with Ukhov.

"I still think that he's a great guy, he seems like a nice guy. I don't even know if this was a decision or not, or if this was something that was forced (upon the Russian), so I don't hold any resentment against him," Drouin said.

Drouin is finally on the mend after a couple of injury-plagued seasons. He was forced to withdraw from the 2017 world championships in London with an Achilles tendon injury, then a bulging disc in his neck kept him out of the Commonwealth Games last April and saw him eventually shut down his season.

Drouin's London Olympic medal came on a surgically repaired ankle, after he'd ruptured two tendons in his foot a year earlier. After winning gold at the 2016 Rio Games, he revealed he'd competed with a couple of stress fractures in his lower back.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press