Erik Kynard celebrates after winning the silver medal in the men's high jump final at the Olympic Games London 2012 on Aug. 7, 2012 in London.
Erik Kynard has never celebrated his silver medal from the Olympic Games London 2012. Tervel Dlagnev never had an Olympic medal to celebrate.
Now they are getting the recognition they always knew they deserved.
More than nine years later, Kynard is officially the gold medalist in the men’s high jump while Dlagnev is a freestyle wrestling bronze medalist in the 120 kg. division.
“It was kind of like, ‘Finally,’” said Kynard.
“It’s been so long, the emotions are drained from it,” said Dlagnev. “Obviously, at the time I was pretty hurt.”
Both Kynard, 30, and Dlagnev, 36, have known since 2019 that medals could be reallocated based on doping disqualifications. However, appeals, bureaucracy and the pandemic slowed down the process. The International Olympic Committee Executive Board made the decision earlier this month.
“I think the issue of drugs in sports is something that existed obviously before my career in Olympic sports, and it probably will exist after,” Kynard said. “I just hope that one day they find some system of due process that can actually reward properly athletes who are cheated and there’s some type of reparations besides just saying nine years later, ‘Hey, you’re the guy who really won.’”
In 2012, Kynard leaped 2.33 meters while Ivan Ukhov of Russia went 2.38 to beat him. Now Kynard is the gold medalist without leaving the ground.
Ukhov was banned in 2019 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport based on his country’s state-sponsored doping program. He was retroactively disqualified from the London Olympics.
Also in 2019, Artur Taymazov of Uzbekistan was stripped of his 2012 wrestling gold. The International Olympic Committee said he tested positive for a banned steroid when his sample was retested using more modern lab technology. Taymazov had previously forfeited his 2008 gold medal for the same reason, but retained his gold in 2004 and silver in 2000.
“The frustrating thing was everyone knew this guy was doping,” said Dlagnev. “We would ask the Russians, ‘Taymazov, doping?’ They’d say, ‘No no, very good vitamins’ and then they’d kind of laugh.”
When Dlagnev began hearing rumors in 2019 that a bronze medal was a possibility, he had mixed emotions. He had come to terms with his fifth-place finish.
“I beat Taymasov the year before in 2011 (at the world champiionships), so I was planning on winning the Olympics anyway,” Dlagnev said. “After I lost, it was kind of a bummer, but then you go on and that’s your story. You didn’t medal. And then this many years later you hear about it. There’s a little bit of frustration in it as far as, ‘That’s kind of scummy that he got away with it and it took this long,’ but I also appreciate the fact that they hunted it down and made it right.”
A Moment That Cannot Be Replaced
Yet both athletes say nothing can make up for what they missed in 2012. Kynard did not stand on the top step of the podium and Dlagnev didn’t make the podium at all or see the American flag raised in his honor.
“That’s not only a moment that was taken away from me, it’s something that was taken away from the entirety of my support system, family and friends,” said Kynard, who said his father and 74-year-old grandfather were in the stadium in London. “Nothing can replace that. It’s the greatest flaw in the system of the Olympic Movement.”
He said he had suspicions about Ukhov at the time, “but if you do say something, you’re a sore loser.”
While Kynard moved up from silver, two other Team USA athletes also saw their results change: Jamie Nieto is now fifth and Jesse Williams is tied for eighth.
In the women’s high jump, Chaunte Lowe is now fifth. She previously moved up to the bronze medal at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008.