Sunday 25 September 2016

'The news gives a kind of credit to what a lot of people thought all along' - Sonia O'Sullivan would be 'satisfied' with 1993 world titles after Chinese doping revelations

Published 05/02/2016 | 08:04

Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan competes. Inset: Controversial Chinese coach Ma Junren
Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan competes. Inset: Controversial Chinese coach Ma Junren

Olympic silver-medallist Sonia O'Sullivan could be in line to add to her amazing international medal haul after reports in the Chinese media revealed that athletes were given ‘large doses of illegal drugs’ in the 1990s.

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The Cobh woman could be in line to be awarded two World Championship gold medals retrospectively from the 1993 tournament in Stuttgart.

O'Sullivan finished second in the 1,500m behind at the Championships and was ran out of a medal place by three Chinese athletes in the 3,000m.

Doubts over the legitimacy of the performances of the Chinese athletes at that tournament have lingered for over two decades and now these sensational, but not unexpected, revelations are emanating from the country.

Speaking to The Anton Savage Show on Today FM, O'Sullivan said: "I would be surprised if two gold medals turn up

"If the record books are set straight and my name appears in there as the winner as the world record holder, as I would have had for eight years, that would give me satisfaction to see that.

"I don't think two medals in a package is going to make any difference to me.

"Just knowing that something that you questioned, something that you didn't believe in those years ago... and you were right in not believing it, that would give me a lot of satisfaction.

"I'm not hoping for anything but the news gives a kind of credit to what a lot of people thought all along.

"Anyone who was involved in athletics at the time... joking, there were a lot of Chinese whispers going around about the Chinese takeaway.

"There was a lot of talk but nothing ever proven. Nobody spoke out loud or said anything then the Chinese athletes and their coach disappeared and everybody else moved on.

"It was kind of forgotten about and brushed under the carpet for such a long time that when I first heard about this this morning it was surprise to get the news.... it was a surprise to get the news but it wasn't a surprise what the news was.

"I knew there was something a bit odd, a bit strange. It was something that nobody could get to the bottom of. People went out there and tried to figure it out but they had an answer for everything.

"They were running more miles than anyone had ever run in their life which would allow you to run very fast times and do extraordinary things but how do you do that? and how do you keep doing it?

"There was all this talk of turtle blood and all these mysterious answers that nobody could really understand.

"What it did for me in 1993? I thought 'I've got to train a lot harder'. To be able to compete I've got to raise the level of my training and I went on and did that.

"Instead of dwelling on 'I can't compete or I can't keep up' I went out and trained really hard.

"I got injured doing it, managed to recover from it and I came out in '94 and ran better than before and the Chinese never turned up."

"There was a bit of worry going into the world championships as to how I was going to deal with this and then all the suspicions and predictions came true. They did go out there and took away all the gold medals and some of the silver and bronze.

"At the time it was just something that you had to deal with it. It was annoying not to win but I did move on from it and I never let it get me down.

"If there is a truth and the truth is revealed, it will be a huge satisfaction that what people thought... there was something there.

"Until it's proven you give them teh benefit of the doubt until it's proven that people are cheating and then you can say you're not surprised by that at all."

The IAAF has confirmed it was investigating claims China's double world record holder Wang Junxia admitted to doping.

According to Chinese state media, Wang, who remains the world record holder for the 3,000 and 10,000 metres, admitted being an unwilling participant in a state-sponsored doping programme.

The claims are contained in a letter allegedly written in 1995 by Wang and nine team-mates coached by the controversial Ma Junren, but has only just come to light.

Junren's athletes, who were known as Ma's Army, won every women's gold medal from 1500m to 10,000m at the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart.

The legitimacy of Wang's world records, set in the space of six days in Beijing in 1993, has long been questioned. Her 10,000m record of 29 minutes 31.78 seconds knocked 42 seconds off the old record and is still 22 seconds faster than any other woman has run.

The letter, sent to a journalist named as Zhao Yu, reportedly revealed that Ma's athletes were forced to dope and, when they started to throw away the illegal drugs over fears for their health, they were injected personally.

"We are humans, not animals," the alleged letter's authors wrote.

"For many years, (he) forced us to take a large dose of illegal drugs. It was true."

The IAAF confirmed it was looking into the letter and said any athlete proved to have admitted to doping before achieving a world record could be stripped of the title.

It said in a statement: "The IAAF's first action must be to verify that the letter is genuine. In this respect, the IAAF has asked the Chinese Athletics Association to assist it in that process. In any case, IAAF Competition Rule 263.3 (e) note (ii) clearly states that if anyone makes an admission of guilt, the IAAF can take action:

"If an athlete has admitted that, at some time prior to achieving a world record, he had used or taken advantage of a substance or technique prohibited at that time, then, subject to the advice of the medical and anti-doping commission, such record will not continue to be regarded as a world record by the IAAF."

Wang, who won 5,000m gold at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, is a member of the IAAF Hall of Fame. The 43-year-old retired in 1997, having never failed a drugs test.

Ma himself has consistently denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

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