An exhausted Michael Rogers finishes the time trial in Athens. Photo: Darren Pateman
When Michael Rogers learned this week that he will be awarded a bronze medal for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games time trial he finally allowed himself to celebrate the feat. Since the likelihood of American Tyler Hamilton being stripped of the Olympic title after confessing to doping emerged, Rogers has said little on it, other than to say he would like the medal.
But when it was reported on Wednesday that the International Olympic Committee had re-assigned the placings, Rogers put on a barbecue at his home in Mendrisio, Switzerland and belatedly toasted the achievement with a glass of champagne with his father, who had been in Europe following the Tour de France and Olympics before returning to Australia on Saturday.
Rogers, who initially placed fourth in the 2004 Olympic time trial and was sixth in this year's Games event, praised the decision.
"I haven't heard anything officially. And I haven't spoken to anyone. I found out about it in the press as everyone else did," Rogers told Fairfax. "But it's good news and we had a glass of champagne after we heard about it the other night. We had a barbecue outside and got to celebrate it in Aussie style. My dad has been over here so that was a bit of a small consolation.
"But I think it's great that [the retroactive IOC medal] system is in place and was put in to practice. I'm proud to become the bronze medallist and really look forward to receiving it, for sure."
However, Rogers, who is contracted on the British Sky team and helped Briton Bradley Wiggins win the Tour before competing in the road race and time trial at the 2012 Olympics in London, said that nothing could ever replace celebrating a 2004 Olympic medal win on the podium. "It would have meant a lot more had I received it on the day - my mum and dad were over from Australia then, and my wife and her family," Rogers said. "This medal doesn't really replace the photo that could have been - that of being on the podium of the Olympics."
Helping Rogers remain calm as the process unfolded was his experience in such scenarios. He has had three result upgradings in major races after riders were caught for doping.
Rogers, who won the 2004 and 2005 world title time trial titles, was handed the 2003 crown after British rider David Millar lost it for doping. Then, after placing sixth in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games road race, the ACT rider had his IOC certificate for a top-10 finish upgraded to fifth place when the Italian runner-up, David Rebellin, lost his silver medal after he tested positive for drugs. "When Rebellin was disqualified [the IOC] sent me a letter [asking him] to send my sixth placed scroll back and I ended getting a fifth," Rogers said.
In this latest and third case following Hamilton's overdue doping confession, the Olympic gold medal he won will now go to the retired Russian rider Viatcheslav Ekimov, while the silver medal will be awarded to American Bobby Julich and the bronze to Rogers. And it is not before time, as the eight-year statute of limitations for the IOC is due to expire later this month.