Sunday 23 October 2016

Irish athletes have been caught up in drugs scandals before

Cathal McMahon

Published 05/08/2016 | 02:30

Three time gold medal winner Michelle Smith
Three time gold medal winner Michelle Smith

There have been a relatively small number of Irish athletes banned for alleged doping, but the cases have all received widespread coverage, with all the athletes receiving a certain amount of notoriety.

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Michelle de Bruin

Westmeath's Martin Fagan. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Westmeath's Martin Fagan. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

The swimmer had a nightmare fall from grace just two years after winning three gold medals and a bronze at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.

De Bruin has always denied taking performance-enhancing drugs. As her father Brian pointed out recently, she was tested eight times during the games, but the results were always negative.

But in 1998, two testers arrived at her home in Kilkenny and asked her to give a urine sample.

When the sample arrived in the lab in Barcelona, it was found that it gave off "a very strong whiskey odour''. She was found guilty of interfering with the sample.

Cian O'Connor

Riding his horse Waterford Crystal, showjumper Cian O'Connor became an instant national hero when he became the only Irish medallist at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

However, on October 8, 2004, it emerged that Waterford Crystal had tested positive for a prohibited substance.

The Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) ruled that O'Connor must be stripped of his medal and he also received a three-month ban from competition. FEI found that he did not deliberately attempt to affect the performance of the horse.

Denis Lynch

Just four years after O'Connor's ban, fellow Irish showjumper Denis Lynch withdrew from the showjumping final at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing four hours before it was due to begin - after his horse, Lantinus, tested positive for the banned substance capsaicin.

Lynch claimed that the substance was present in a cream that he had applied to the horse - called Equiblock - which is similar to the Deep Heat cream that is used to treat muscle aches in humans.

In October 2008, an FEI tribunal suspended Lynch for three months.

Martin Fagan

Irish marathon runner Martin Fagan was banned for two years in 2012 by Athletics Ireland following a failed doping test.

The Mullingar native tested positive for EPO at an out-of-competition test in Tuscon, Arizona, in December 2009. He admitted that his battle against injury, financial pressure and an ongoing fight against depression led him to take the performance enhancer in November.

Speaking to a newspaper at the time, he said: "I know what some other athletes said about me at the time, that I did let a lot of people down, crossed the line and badly damaged the sport.

"And I know I deserved all of that, and I actually needed to hear that, to fully understand the mistake I did make. I just wasn't sure if I wanted to hear all that again, to run again. Because I know some people will always question what I do now, and some people might not want to see me competing again."

Irish Independent

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