SPORTS

Top U.S. runner Brenda Martinez lashes out about doping: 'We have been robbed'

Brenda Martinez wins the women's 1,500 meters at the U.S. indoor track and field championships in Portland, Ore., Saturday, March 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

Brenda Martinez wins the women's 1,500 meters at the U.S. indoor track and field championships in Portland, Ore., Saturday, March 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

Brenda Martinez was at her best in the 800 meters that day at the 2013 world championships.

The big question she can't get out of her mind now is this: Was she running on a level playing field?

Quick answer: Doesn't appear so.

As it stands, the American is listed as the bronze-medal winner. Martinez conceivably could be bumped up to silver, after runner-up Mariya Savinova-Farnosova was among the Russian runners targeted for lifetime bans by an independent commission tasked with investigating widespread doping in that country.

Russia, one of the top powers in track, won't compete at the world indoor championships this weekend because of pending doping and corruption charges. The International Association of Athletics Federations, the sport's governing body, could decide in May if Russia's track and field ensemble has done enough to repair its anti-doping program and can be reinstated for the Rio Olympics.

"I don't know what the future is going to hold for them. Hopefully, they can be the example — don't cheat," Martinez said Wednesday. "So many of us have been robbed from experiences and moments.

"You can't clean up something like that in less than a year. There's only so much we can talk about. You just hope it gets cleaned up."

In the 800-meter final at the 2013 world championships, Martinez wasn't thinking so much about who might be doping, only that "I can be a medalist, but I have to be on that day." She was, too, finishing third in a personal-best time behind winner Eunice Jepkoech Sum of Kenya and Savinova-Farnosova.

"That race was crazy," Martinez said. "I mean, the stuff I know now, wow, a lot of us could be promoted or medalists."

Possibly even her teammate, Alysia Montano, if the recommendations against Savinova-Farnosova are followed. Montano finished fourth.

"I feel bad for Alysia. She should've been a medalist," Martinez said. "You pray everything will be sorted out."

Martinez will compete in the 1,500 meters at world indoors this week. It's a chance to dabble in another event before returning to the 800 for the Olympic trials in July. She also will enter the 1,500 — a safety net in case something goes wrong in the 800.

"But the 800 is definitely my focus," Martinez said.

Earlier in the week, there was some news involving a high-profile runner in the 800. Former European indoor 800-meter champion Nataliya Lupu of Ukraine is missing world indoors this week over her use of meldonium, the same substance which led to tennis standout Maria Sharapova's positive test at the Australian Open.

The Ukrainian track and field federation said Lupu withdrew after the World Anti-Doping Agency "raised concerns about the use of meldonium."

This irks Martinez.

"It goes to show, you shouldn't be messing with stuff like that anyway," said Martinez, who's from Rancho Cucamonga, California. "They get away with it. It won't be long until they get caught or start putting more stuff on the banned list.

"Little by little, athletes are getting caught. You kind of hope it's before the (Olympic) Games, or any championships."

As for convicted dopers, she has a simple solution: Lifetime ban. No exceptions.

"Anyone who cheats should be a no-go," Martinez said. "Everything is going to play out if you do it the right way, live the right lifestyle and what-not."

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