The first American woman to ever win an Olympic medal in the 1,500-meter run gave an impassioned plea about the ongoing issue of doping within her sport Wednesday, even being moved to tears as she spoke.
Jenny Simpson, who took bronze in the 1,500 at the Rio Games on Tuesday night, even urged reporters to continue trying to expose doping. Russia's track and field team was banned from Rio over allegations of state-sponsored doping, and many other nations _ including Kenya and Ethiopia, the homelands of the runners who finished ahead of Simpson _ have faced scrutiny as well.
"In the light of the lot of the scrutiny that's happened around the sport, one of the things that athletes talk about is how the unfortunate reality of doping within a sport, it steals the moment from people that deserve it," Simpson said Wednesday. "I feel like I get this moment and so I'm grateful for that, that I get to stand on the podium and have a moment that I really deserve. So that feels really good."
(See Jenny Simpson's postrace interview from Tuesday night here.)
Out of the top eight finishers in the women's 1,500 at the London Games four years ago, six have either been disqualified or face allegations of using performance-enhancing substances. Simpson missed the 1,500 final in 2012.
"In Kenya, we are clean," gold medalist Faith Kipyegon insisted.
Silver medalist Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, the reigning world champion, said she was "crystal clean." But her coach was arrested in Spain and held for three days in June on suspicion of supplying banned substances; he remains under investigation and is not at the Rio Games.
Tears of joy Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
"My job in this situation is to stand on the starting line and race whoever's permitted to compete on that day," Simpson said. "That is a responsibility I take very seriously. Whoever shows up, I'm going to try to beat them and I train hard for that. So I really encourage the media to follow the smoke and try to find fire."
These were Simpson's third Olympics, and she said the wait was worthwhile. Her coach, Heather Burroughs, told her Tuesday night that "today is forever."
That's the line that really struck a chord with Simpson.
"There are moments in your own career that are so important to your personal legacy," Simpson said. "And being the first American woman to medal in the 1,500 meters transcends my legacy into something I get to share with the country. I feel so humbled by that. There is part of this that is a very personal experience and then part of the Olympics that it's a very symbolic experience. And I get to be a very special and hopefully very powerful and positive symbol to the country."
Not long afterward, that's when Simpson _ even a day removed from the medal _ began to cry.
"That's just how I feel," Simpson said. "It's going to last forever. There are going to be people who run really fast and I don't know if I'll ever get all the records in the record books _ but I get a medal, and that's forever, and that feels really good. It means more when your coach says it."
And that's when she urged reporters to keep digging for more.
"When it comes to the questions and the scrutiny around the sport, I think it's important, I think it's healthy _ but I also think that the media has an opportunity to follow the smoke and find fire," Simpson said. "There's a greater opportunity for the media to not just ask athletes of their personal opinions or convictions about it but to investigate on their own and find out."