David Gillick: We all knew the Chinese athletes were dirty - Sonia was robbed of medals
Former European indoor champion David Gillick has slammed the doping scandal which rocked the athletics world and said that Irish runners losing out on big medals has damaged the growth of the sport here.
It emerged last week that Olympic silver medallist Sonia O’Sullivan could be awarded two World Championship gold medals following reports in the Chinese media that some of their athletes were given 'large doses of illegal drugs' in the 1990's.
Two-time European indoor champion Gillick said that Sonia was not the only Irish athlete to be miss out on a medal due to drug cheats.
And Gillick, who was aware of athletes doping during his time in the sport, said that the use of performance enhancing drugs by other countries, affected the development of Irish athletics at a national level.
“We all knew in athletics what was going on but it's very hard to prove,” the former 400m star told Independent.ie
“We all knew the Chinese were dirty because you know by results.”
“I think Sonia was a phenomenal athlete and she deserves to get the recognition, but it’s not just about the material medals.
“The negative is that for a sport to grow - particularly in Ireland - when you win medals, sponsors get involved with the sport at a national level, which helps it grow from a grass roots level.
“But we can’t get that any more because it’s gone, it was 20 years ago,” Gillick said.
“Sonia, as well as the likes of Rob Heffernan and Derval O’Rourke have all been robbed of medals so what the athletic association need to realise is that it’s not just about the medals, it’s about the wider growth of the sport," he added.
Gillick, who retired from athletics in 2014, said that the use by some of his fellow athletes of performance enhancing drugs, damaged his confidence in his running ability.
“When I came sixth in the World Championships in Berlin, the guy who won it was then done for drugs and the guy in second place had a lot of suspicion around him.
“I finished sixth and to me that was a big deal. If I’d finished fifth or fourth that’s an even bigger deal. So sometimes you wonder, “Where did I really finish?”
“There were other times when I trained in the US and trained with 12 athletes. In the subsequent year three of those guys tested positive for drugs.
“I remember coming home after getting injured and I was really down. I thought on the plane, 'Maybe these guys are just much better than me'", Gillick added.
The 32-year-old Dubliner, who won Celebrity Masterchef in 2013 and released a best-selling cookbook last year, has gotten involved in various TV projects and healthy cooking since retiring from the sport.
Gillick, who is expecting his first child with wife Charlotte Wickham, helped to launch the world’s first vitamin and protein bar Fulfil, which comes in flavours including Cookies & Cream and Peanut and Caramel.
“When I’m out and about, the only so called healthy snack bars you can get are full of sugar so that’s what we wanted to combat with Fulfil,” he said.