Saturday 18 November 2017

Roisin McGettigan: Medal upgrade a hollow victory

Irish steeplechase record holder, Roisin McGettigan. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Irish steeplechase record holder, Roisin McGettigan. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Athletics Cliona Foley

THE latest Irish athlete to get upgraded to an international medal because an opponent was a drugs cheat admitted yesterday "the moment is lost now".

Like Derval O'Rourke, Roisin McGettigan (33) is being upgraded to a bronze medal from the 2009 European Indoor Championships because Russia's disgraced champion Anna Alminova, who has just completed a three-year ban, is being stripped of all of her results from February 2009.

The Irish steeplechase record holder, who reached World and Olympic finals during her career, retired two years ago and lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

"To be upgraded five years later seems a bit silly really but it's good because it means they're catching the cheats now," she said.

"So many Russians have been caught in the last two years that it confirms what we suspected, that we were competing on an uneven playing field.

"But it's not just about the medals," McGettigan stressed. "The problem is that they (cheats) set the bar unrealistically high, which directly affects everyone else.

"Myself and Mary Cullen went to Turin in great shape that year, we'd both run national records. Mary was tipped for a medal and won one (3,000m bronze), I was more an outsider but was just pipped for third.

"After Turin I completely over-trained and got badly fatigued because I felt I had to do more to make the podium," she explained.

"That's the thing about doping, it makes clean athletes doubt what they're doing. You train harder to try and reach their standards and that often leads to injuries or illness."

McGettigan said the news came like a bolt out of the blue this week.

"It was very random. I was out in the garden and came in to see a tweet from a journalist and then another from Rose-Anne Galligan (Irish international) congratulating me," she revealed. John Foley (Athletics Ireland CEO) called me later to confirm it.

"You are always delighted to run personal bests and reach finals but that's usually not enough for the public," McGettigan reflected.

"They want to see the green vest on the podium and don't understand that it's often not a level playing field, no matter how hard we worked.

"A medal would have been nice but probably meant more to my family and those who supported me. The moment is lost now and it certainly is a strange way to get one."

Meanwhile, Athletics Ireland (AAI) has signed a new sponsorship deal with health insurers GloHealth. The company replaces Woodies DIY, who had sponsored AAI for over 11 years.

The deal is particularly timely as GloHealth take over just as a new wave of exciting young talent is coming through and expected to do well at the European Championship next month.

Waterford's 400m hurdles star Tomas Barr and Tralee's rising 800m runner Laura Crowe are among them and are particularly enthused about the high quality of competition available on home soil over the next week.

Crowe is racing in the second Belfast International at the Mary Peters track tonight while Barr's next race is the Cork City Sports next Tuesday (July 8).

Both will also be competing in the high-class Morton Games in Santry on July 11, where Portugal's European 100m record holder Francis Obikwelu will be in the sprint fields.

Crowe is the fourth fastest Irish woman over 800m (2:00.93) and knocked almost five seconds off her PB last year.

Irish Independent

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