Former world champion sprinter now under investigation
Following the 10-year ban given by USADA to athletics agent and coach Mark Block for trafficking illegal substances, the IAAF has confirmed that his wife Zhanna Block, the 2001 world 100m champion, is now under investigation and could stand to lose her medals.
IAAF vice president Sergey Bubka, the pole vault world record-holder, told the associated press that there is an ongoing investigation, although did not go in to any details.
“The IAAF has been working hand in hand with USADA since 2003 to ensure that all athletes and athlete support personnel involved in the conspiracy are brought to justice,” the IAAF recently said in a statement.
Block shot to prominence in the early Nineties, winning the 1992 European indoor 60m title. At the 1997 World Championships she won 200m gold and took silver in the 100m
But her biggest victory came when she defeated Marion Jones over 100m at the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton, setting a national record of 10.82 and ending the American’s four-year, 42-meet winning streak.
Jones has already been stripped of the silver medal she won at the 2001 World Championships. If Block’s gold medal from Edmonton is taken away, it could ironically be passed on to Ekatherini Thanou – the greek sprinter who is currently involved in an on-going legal battle for making false statements to police to avoid a doping test on the eve of the 2004 Olympics.
Block stopped competing in 2006, but the last time she won a medal of note was in 2003. She won the world indoor 60m title at the start of that year with a national record of 7.04, and went on to finish third in the 100m at the World Championships in Paris.
Her bronze medal was later upgraded to silver after the disqualification of Kelli White, the first athlete to be banned as part of the BALCO scandal after she admitted to being on performance-enhancing drugs since 2001.
The IAAF has an eight-year statute of limitations, which may hinder their attempt to strip Block of any medals won before 2003, but Bubka hinted that they may bend their own rules.
“I do not want to prejudge the outcome of any investigation but, in general, IAAF rules allow for retroactive sanctions and this has happened often in the past,” he said.
One such example was the retroactive upgrade the British men’s 4x400m team received in 2008, 11 years after the relay final at the Athens World Championships.
Should this happen to Block, it would mean even more disqualifications and reallocation of medals. Her husband, meanwhile, is set to contest the 10-year ban given to him by USADA.