How tainted was the women’s 1500m at London 2012?

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On February 29th, the IAAF announced that Sweden’s 2013 world 1500-metre champion, Abeba Aregawi, had tested positive for a banned substance and has been suspended from competition pending the examination of her “B” urine test sample.

News reports say she tested positive at an out-of-competition test early this year for meldonium, which was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substances list in 2016. Officials have not said if Aregawi’s previous medals or results will be stripped.

Aregawi was a finalist in a race at the 2012 Olympics in London - the women’s 1500 metres - that has since become infamous for the number of athletes in it who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs before or after the race.

Here are the top nine finishers in the race, their ages at the time, and their doping histories, if any.  

1/ Asli Cakir Alptekin, 27, Turkey, first in 4:10.23
Cakir Alptekin served a two-year ban from 2004 to 2006, before winning the gold medal in London. She is currently serving an eight-year ban for biological passport violations and has been stripped of her gold.

2/ Gamze Bulut, 20, of Turkey, second in 4:10.40
During the semi-final round of the 1500 metres at the Games, she set her PR of 4:01.18. Before 2012, her personal best had been 4:18.23, which she ran in July 2011. She is currently suspended from competition due to irregularities in her biological passport. 

3/ Maryam Yusuf Jamal, 27, Bahrain, third in 4:10.74
Jamal has never failed a drug test. She was born in Ethiopia, sought political asylum in Switzerland, and represents Bahrain internationally. In addition to the bronze medal she won in 2012, she was the world 1500-metre champion in 2007 and 2009.

4/ Tatyana Tomashova, 37, Russia, fourth in 4:10.90
Tomashova was the world 1500-metre champion in 2003 and 2005. Before the Games in 2012, she served a ban of more than two years for “fraudulent substitution of urine” before a doping test. Russia is currently banned from global track and field championships, a situation which may or may not change in time for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

5/ Abeba Aregawi, 22, Ethiopia, fifth in 4:11.03
After the 2012 Games, Aregawi began running for Sweden and won the 2013 world 1500-metre title. News of her positive test was announced on Monday 1st March, and she will not be in Portland, Oregon, later this month to defend the World Indoor 1500 title she won in 2014.

6/ Shannon Rowbury, 27, United States, sixth in 4:11.26
Rowbury has never failed a drug test. She was a bronze medalist at the 2009 World championships. Last summer in Monaco, she set a new American 1500 record of 3:56.29. She told Runner’s World by phone on February 29th that going into the 2012 Olympic final, “I felt I’d done everything in my power to make it to the podium.”

7/ Natallia Kareiva, 26, Belarus, seventh in 4:11.58
Kareiva was banned in 2014 for a biological passport abnormality and her Olympic result was voided.

8/ Lucia Klocova, 28, Slovakia, eighth in 4:12.64
Klocova has never failed a drug test. She was in her third Olympics, having run the 800 metres in the previous two. She was a semi-finalist in the 800 at the 2015 World Championships.

9/ Ekaterina Kostetskaya, 25, Russia, ninth in 4:12.90
Kostetskaya was given a two-year ban in 2014 for violating an IAAF rule against “use/attempted use of a prohibited substance/method” at the 2011 World Championships.

Talking about doping in her event on Monday, Rowbury told Runner’s World, “I came into the sport completely naïve. I would rather quit the sport than cheat. It’s a moral thing. I guess I expected everyone else to feel the same way.” On March 6th, she posted a video to YouTube in which she described her feelings after learning that another runner in the race was implicated in doping.