For the first time in the 113-year history of the Olympics, an event will be without a gold-medal winner.
The International Olympic Committee on Wednesday reallocated two individual medals stripped from Marion Jones for doping but, in an unprecedented move, withheld her 100-meter prize from Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou because of her "disgraceful" behavior in evading drug tests.
The decision means the first two runners across the line in Sydney have both been denied the winner's medal for doping violations, and the gold in sprinting's marquee event will remain without an owner.
Jones was stripped of her three medals in December 2007 after admitting that she used steroids in the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics. Thanou, the surprise silver medalist at those Games, was part of a bizarre incident four years later in the days prior to the Olympics in her home country of Greece. She and a male sprinter were accused of dodging drug testers by faking a motorcycle accident. Though she never tested positive for a banned substance, Thanou was banned by the IAAF for two years.
The other two medals won by Jones were reallocated. Pauline Davis-Thompson replaced Jones as the gold-medal winner in the 200, while Susanthika Jayasinghe and Beverly McDonald move to silver and bronze, respectively. In the 100, Tanya Lawrence goes from bronze to silver, while Merlene Ottey (who is now 48) gets the bronze, her eighth Olympic medal.
Keeping the gold from Thanou was a no-brainer for the IOC. It creates a strange gap in the record books, of course, but it's not the first time medals have been reallocated. It's just the first time the top-two finishers were caught cheating.
In the era of steroids, stripping medals is a necessary evil even though it always feels a bit hollow. While Pauline Davis-Thompson, the Jamaican woman who went from silver to gold in the 200, probably appreciates receiving gold, can she really feel like the winner? The experience of winning gold isn't in looking at a medal hanging on the wall (or, more likely, stashed in a safe deposit box somewhere), it's in crossing the tape first and hearing your anthem on the medal stand and coming back to a hero's welcome. Receiving a medal eight years later can never compare to that.