South Dakotan pole vaulter receives medal from 2008 Olympics

VERMILLION, S.D. (AP) An assistant track coach at the University of South Dakota has been awarded a bronze medal for pole vaulting at the 2008 Beijing Olympics after the original winner was disqualified for doping.

Derek Miles, a three-time Olympian, placed fourth in the pole vaulting event in 2008. He reached the same height (18 feet, 8 inches) as Denys Yurchenko, but the Ukrainian won the bronze because he made fewer attempts.

Miles received his medal in a ceremony Monday.

Yurchenko was among several athletes who were stripped last year of their 2008 Olympic medals after the International Olympic Committee found banned substances during retesting.

U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said ensuring a doping-free Olympics is a top priority.

”Athletes like Derek deserve a level playing field,” he said. ”Not years after the competition ends, but each and every day when they take the field of play.”

It wasn’t guaranteed that Miles would receive a medal. Yurchenko initially refused to give up the medal, and the International Olympic Committee rarely gives out replacements.

Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the U.S. Olympic Committee and held hearings on doping earlier this year. When Thune heard of Miles’ case, he worked with his staff to ensure Miles would receive a medal.

”It’s an amazing thing to have, to be an Olympic medalist,” Miles said.

Miles has been a member of the university’s coaching staff for the past 14 seasons and now serves as the associate director of track and field.