Nelson finally honored as '04 champ
DES MOINES, Iowa -- With one of his young daughters in his arms and the other clinging to his back, American shot putter Adam Nelson finally completed his long-awaited victory lap.
Nine years after the Athens Games, Nelson was honored as the 2004 Olympic champion during a ceremony Sunday at the U.S. track and field championships.
"Better late than never," Nelson said. "The way I look at it is I've got the rest of my life to be the gold medalist."
Nelson was officially elevated to Olympic champion last month, taking the gold that was stripped from a Ukrainian rival for doping. Nelson finished second in Athens behind Yuriy Bilonog, whose gold medal was removed by the International Olympic Committee in December after his reanalyzed sample tested positive for steroids.
This was a moment Nelson savored.
He stood on the top step with a laurel wreath on his head, waving to the Drake Stadium crowd. Then, he listened to the national anthem that played over the loud speakers.
And finally what he was looking forward to most -- taking his two kids, Caroline and Lauren, with him on a celebration lap.
"I think the emotions are a little more subdued," the usually emotional Nelson said. "But it's been great because I've been able to share the experience with my family."
Nelson insists there is no bitterness over the situation, but he does hope this sends a strong message to clean athletes.
"It does pay to do it the right way," said Nelson, who retired from throwing in November. "It may not pay right away, but over the long term, you've always got your integrity, and eventually it will pay off."
As he made his way around the track, his fellow shot putters were warming up for their competition. Nelson had no desire at all to step back in the ring and try to capture another national title.
"First of all, I think it would be embarrassing to myself and my family," Nelson said, chuckling. "Second of all, I wouldn't want to devalue the hard work they've put in. I've been enjoying my retirement."
Ryan Whiting won the final Sunday at nationals, with Reese Hoffa taking second. Nelson definitely feels as though he left the discipline in good hands.
"Ryan is probably the future of the sport," Nelson said. "He's slowly building and challenging Reese and Christian (Cantwell) and all those guys for dominance."
These days, Nelson's focus is on opening a sports performance center in Athens, Ga.
Asked if he was satisfied with the current drug testing procedures in place, Nelson said: "I think we've caught up.
"You always hear rumors about the next thing coming down the pipeline," he said. "At the end of the day, it's not a culture I've been involved with. I don't know where the latest techniques are. Until drug-testing agencies partner with pharmaceuticals and get ahead of the development of drugs for nonsport reasons, I think the drug cheats will always be one step ahead of the drug testers."
Not that he's giving it much thought. Never has, really.
"I've never looked back on any past victories or failures. I've always used them as learning points and ways to improve," Nelson said. "That's how I'm going to look at this. This will be a way for me to learn and grow."