Thursday 14 December 2017

Gillick: I have been tested up to three times in one week

David Gillick says he is shocked by ex-training partner Tyson Gay's drug shame
David Gillick says he is shocked by ex-training partner Tyson Gay's drug shame
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

DAVID Gillick (30) is a two-time European Indoor 400m champion and finished sixth at the 2009 World Championships, but the Dundrum South Dublin star has spent the past 24 months battling with injury.

He only raced three times last year and his last was as part of a relay team on June 30, 2012; yet four weeks ago he had his latest random drug test.

He was leaving his parents' house in Ballinteer to go training when he met the testers coming in the gate at 9.0am.

One of them was a nurse because he had to give both a blood and urine sample. Gillick has absolutely no problem with that, believing such discomfort to be worth it to prove that he is a clean athlete.

Like all Irish internationals, he has to give the Sports Council monthly written updates of his whereabouts, so they know where to find him. He has been tested so many times he has lost count but recalls once being tested three times in one week, all without prior warning.

The revelation that some of the world's top sprinters have just tested positive threatens to finally tip track and field's reputation over the cliff, and it breaks his heart.

"Joe Bloggs on the street will say, 'ah they're all on drugs!' They might even have been saying it about me when I won my medals. That's what's so galling about this, that people don't realise that it's only a tiny percentage and most of us are competing clean," he says.

He was shocked that Tyson Gay, with whom he once trained for a year, has been included in the latest revelations but other aspects of the latest scandal have not surprised him because he has seen, first-hand, the inequities in the system.

Irish athletes may not pull in sackfuls of medals but they're among the most tested in the world. The Irish Sports Council's anti-doping programme is regarded as a world leader; many countries are far less stringent, for a variety of reasons.

"Testing costs a lot of money, something like €100 for a urine test alone and more for a blood one and not every country has the resources," Gillick says. "We invest an awful lot (over €1m annually), some argue we invest more in anti-doping than we do in our athletes."

When he trained with Gay and an international training group, Gillick did notice one anomaly. "I saw Tyson getting tested alright but I didn't see much of it with the Caribbean athletes," he says.

"The reality is that it is up to individual federations and many of them don't have resources for a random testing system like ours.

"They get their athletes together at something like a national championships and it's probably no coincidence that these Jamaicans were all tested at their national trials."

Even within athletics the anti-doping system is littered with inconsistencies. It emerged last winter that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) don't do blood tests – the best way to catch EPO and human growth hormone – in Kenya's training mecca for distance runners (the Rift Valley) because of its remoteness.

There are 44 Russian track and field athletes serving drugs bans yet Moscow is hosting the World Championships next month, an insufferable irony for the world's clean athletes.

Of Ireland's top stars, Derval O'Rourke, has been most recently affected. The Turkish athlete who pipped her for European gold in 2006, and whose victory at the European Indoors last March left the Leevale star one place short of bronze, is being investigated for what the IAAF calls "multiple positive findings".

Turkey's reigning women's Olympic 1500m champion is also under investigation, and there's speculation that the entire Turkish federation could yet be banned.

"Derval's been robbed, that's the truth of it," Gillick says.

Just last week O'Rourke said her only consolation is that the net appears to be closing on the cheats, and Gillick agrees.

"There was a feeling before that the sport couldn't afford to expose the big names, but they're catching people now and naming them and the blood passports are definitely helping," he concludes.

Banned: What is Oxilofrine?

Oxilofrine is a stimulant used to enhance the body's ability to burn fat. It helps athletes boost their power-to-weight ratio, with more lean muscle and less fat to increase their speed.

The banned substance also allows the speed of the heart to reach its maximum performance during exercise, delivering oxygen to the muscles earlier.

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