IOC rubber-stamps Olympic medal upgrade for Canada's men's relay team at Tokyo Games

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OTTAWA — Canada's men's 4x100-metre relay team from the Tokyo Olympics has officially been upgraded to silver nine months after they raced to bronze.

The International Olympic Committee rubber-stamped the upgrade during Thursday's meeting of the executive board.

Jerome Blake of Burnaby, B.C., Aaron Brown and Brendon Rodney of Toronto, and six-time Olympic medallist Andre De Grasse of Markham, Ont. posted a time of 37.70 seconds in Tokyo to finish behind Italy and Great Britain. Great Britain's result was scrubbed in February after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against lead-off runner Chijindu Ujah, for a doping violation.

"To retroactively get upgraded to a silver medal on our day off kinda feels weird," Brown said in a YouTube video in March. "We didn't go out there and run any faster, we didn't do anything different on the track. It’s literally because of a disqualification, so that feels a little strange."

Brown said he was content with his bronze; he was sympathetic with Britain's other relay team members.

"Those guys were out there working their butt off too and they deserve that medal just as much as we do,” Brown said. "To go from being that close to gold (Italy edged the Brits by 0.01 seconds) to now walking away with no medal at all, nah man, that's tough. My heart goes out to them, I feel bad for them and that makes it hard for me to celebrate getting a silver medal, honestly."

Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith called the Canadian sprinters "incredible ambassadors" for Canada and the Olympic movement.

"We are delighted that they will be upgraded to the silver medal they earned," she said in a statement. "While it’s disappointing that we are still seeing doping cases robbing athletes of their moment at Games, this reinforces the importance of integrity and safeguarding clean sport."

Athletics Canada said it's still to be determined how the athletes will receive their silver medals.

The Canadian team's medal count from Tokyo 2020 is now seven gold, seven silver and 10 bronze.

"Now I have an Olympic bronze medal, I’ll have an Olympic silver, and all I need is an Olympic gold in Paris 2024 to complete the set," Brown said.

The process for upgrading medals after a doping violation can be painstaking.

Canadian Dylan Armstrong finished fourth in shot put in 2008 in Beijing and so never had the chance to stand on the Olympic medal podium. Years later, he was upgraded to bronze after Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus was disqualified for doping. Armstrong finally received his medal -- Canada's first in shot put at an Olympics -- at a ceremony in his hometown of Kamloops, B.C., in 2015, seven years after the actual competition.

Last November, Canada's Derek Drouin saw his medal from the London Olympics upgraded to silver due to a doping disqualification, nine years after he won bronze at those Games.

Canada has climbed the medal podium in the relay in back-to-back Olympics. Brown, De Grasse and Rodney were members of the bronze medal-winning team at Rio 2016. De Grasse, who has six Olympic medals, became Canada's most decorated male Olympian in Tokyo. Short-track speedskater Charles Hamelin would equal that mark with his gold at the Beijing Games in February.

Swimmer Penny Oleksiak, with seven Olympic medals (one gold, two silver and four bronze), is Canada's overall medal leader.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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