August 14, 2012

Belarus shot putter loses gold for doping

Just hours after the close of the Olympics, a female shot putter from Belarus was stripped of her gold Monday in the first case of an athlete losing a medal for doping at the London Games.

LONDON – Just hours after the close of the Olympics, a female shot putter from Belarus was stripped of her gold Monday in the first case of an athlete losing a medal for doping at the London Games.

With the disqualification of Nadzeya Ostapchuk, the gold medal was awarded to Valerie Adams of New Zealand – who winds up as an Olympic champion for the second time in a row.

The International Olympic Committee said Ostapchuk, a former world champion, tested positive for steroids both before and after winning the shot put last week for her first Olympic gold.

Following an IOC hearing, she was expelled from the Games and had her victory and medal removed from the records. She was the eighth athlete, and first medalist, caught during the IOC's London drug-testing program.

"Catching cheats like this sends a message to all those who dope that we will catch them," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told the Associated Press.

Track and field's governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, will consider further action against Ostapchuk, who could face a two-year ban.

Adams was bumped up from Olympic silver to gold, with Evgeniia Kolodko of Russia upgraded to silver and fourth-place finisher Gong Lijiao of China moved up to bronze.

Adams now has a second gold to go with her victory in Beijing four years ago.

"I am speechless with this news," she told New Zealand's national broadcaster TVNZ from her base in Switzerland.

NBC scores in ratings – The London Olympics drew better ratings than the 2008 Games in Beijing, making them the most watched television event in U.S. history, NBC said.

Total viewership topped the 215 million viewers who tuned in to the Beijing broadcast four years ago, Greg Hughes, a spokesman for Comcast's NBCUniversal division, said in an email.

The performances of American athletes, who won a world-best 46 gold medals and 104 total, helped drive ratings, said Andy Donchin, the director of media investments for Carat North America, an advertising firm. Despite criticism over tape-delaying marquee events, including Michael Phelps' four gold-medal swims and Gabby Douglas' first-place performance in the women's gymnastics all-around, NBC successfully persuaded audiences to tune in several hours after the competitions took place.

Sunday night, NBC abruptly cut off the Games' Closing Ceremony just before 11 p.m. to switch to a preview of a new NBC comedy, "Animal Practice."

Then, rather than going back to the Olympic broadcast, NBC's coverage paused for local news.

All of which meant viewers wanting to see the Who's medley that closed the event had to wait until after midnight. To make matters worse, performances by Muse, Kate Bush and Ray Davies of the Kinks were cut entirely.

Needless to say, Twitter reflected the frustration, and the hash tag #nbcfails got one last workout, with comments (ones that can be repeated here) suggesting "NBC has managed to become even less popular than Congress."

Finale a TV hit in England – The BBC said its live coverage of the Closing Ceremony was watched by 26.3 million people in the United Kingdom, or more than 80 percent of the country's audience share.

The broadcaster said in a statement that coverage on its flagship terrestrial channel, BBC1, peaked at 26 million, easily beating the previous U.K. audience record for an Olympic Closing Ceremony – the 11 million viewers who watched the 1992 ceremony in Barcelona.

Trinidad & Tobago – Gold medalist Keshorn Walcott didn't just return to a hero's welcome in his Caribbean homeland. He also was promised a check for about $155,000, a luxury home and roughly 20,000 square feet of land near his hometown.

A lighthouse and a Caribbean Airlines plane will be named after the 19-year-old javelin champion, too.

Monday was named a national holiday in honor of Walcott, who won the Olympic javelin title with a throw of 277 feet, 6 inches. It was the nation's first Olympic gold in a field event and its second overall.

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