Shotputter Adam Nelson May Receive Athens Gold After Winner Tested Positive for Steroids

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Adam Nelson, a retired American shotputter, may be the winner of an Olympic gold medal – over eight years after the conclusion of the event. Nelson placed second in the shotput at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. However, the International Olympic Committee recently disqualified the original winner after the re-analysis of a stored urine sample this year detected the presence of anabolic steroids.

“The downside of this is I feel like our country was robbed of a medal at the relevant time,” Nelson said. “One of the biggest parts of an Olympic career is when you hear your anthem and see your flag when you stand on that podium. That’s something I can never replace.”

Yuriy Bilonog of Ukraine stood on the podium in Athens and was presented with the gold medal while the Ukrainian national anthem played. Bilonog passed all steroid tests administered by the IOC at the time.

But thanks to a new IOC rule, urine and blood samples collected in Athens were stored for up to eight years. This gave anti-doping scientists additional time to develop more sophisticated methods for the detection of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

The IOC saved over 3,000 samples from Athens. However, only 104 samples were re-analyzed. It is unclear why only a small percentage of the samples were suitable for re-testing. It has not been revealed if the IOC targeted specific individuals or if the samples were randomly selected.

Bilonog’s sample was one of four that showed the presence of anabolic steroids. Specifically, Bilonog tested positive for oxandrolone. Oxandrolone is the generic name for the steroid commonly referred to as Anavar and currently sold as Oxandrin.

The International Olympic Committee Executive Board officially stripped Bilonog of his medal after a meeting in Lausanne on December 4-5, 2012.

The IOC has not confirmed if it will award Nelson the gold. It is not known if Nelson’s stored sample was re-analyzed in addition to Bilonog’s sample.

The question remains: can a medal be fairly redistributed to another athlete if both athletes were not subject to the same rules?

In other words, should Nelson’s stored sample be required to pass the same more sophisticated testing process as was applied to Bilonog’s sample before he is awarded the gold medal?


Pilon, M. (December 5, 2012). ’04 Drug Retest May Give U.S. Olympic Gold. Retrieved from