Champ Borchin brushes off drug links

BEIJING Sat Aug 16, 2008 1:16am EDT

1 of 10. Valeriy Borchin of Russia celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 20km walk in the athletics competition in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 16, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Hershorn

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Russia's Valeriy Borchin won the men's 20 kilometer walk on Saturday before brushing off links with the doping controversies which have plagued his team.

Borchin overcame the heat and a strong challenge from 1996 champion Jefferson Perez of Ecuador to win in a time of 1 hour 19:01 minutes, 14 seconds. Perez took silver while Australia's Jared Tallent claimed third.

The doping issue surfaced after three Russian walkers, including Vladimir Kanaikin, a medal favorite in the 20km event in Beijing, were banned on the eve of the Games for failing doping tests.

World record holder Sergey Morozov also withdrew from the race.

"It is very unfortunate what happened to them and I have heard (the allegations about me) but I don't know what's going on," Borchin told reporters.

"I have been training secluded and have barely seen my team mates," added Borchin who served a one-year doping suspension as a junior from 2005 for taking an illegal stimulant.

The pace was modest in the first half of the race under Beijing's burning sun and nearly a dozen athletes were in contention past the halfway mark.

"I knew from the start that I was walking for a medal, but didn't think I was in contention for the gold," Borchin said.

Perez, a triple world champion, upped the tempo past the 15km mark and tried to shake off his challengers but 21-year-old Borchin countered with a surge which took him clear.

"On the last lap, I felt the energy and surged ahead," Borchin said.

Defending champion Ivano Brugnetti of Italy came in fifth after leading the pack several times in the second half of the race.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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