Sport Rio 2016 Olympics

Saturday 25 January 2020

'They're countries that have had a lot of controversy over them' - Ireland hero Barr casts doubt on men who denied him

Hurdler questions drug-testing regimes in Kenya and Turkey and insists 'I'm clean' after heroic fourth place

Thomas Barr finished in fourth place in Rio
Thomas Barr finished in fourth place in Rio
Ireland's Thomas Barr acknowledges the crowd after his fourth place finish in yesterday's 400m hurdles final in Rio. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick in Rio de Janeiro

Ireland's newest Olympic hero Thomas Barr has questioned the drug-testing regime in Turkey and Kenya, two of whose athletes finished ahead of him in yesterday's thrilling 400m hurdles final in Rio.

But he no has desire to be awarded an Olympic medal retrospectively.

"I really hope that doesn't happen because that's a real hollow victory," said the 24-year-old Waterford native.

Barr, who became the first Irishman to dip under 48 seconds for the event, was taken away for a drug test after he finished speaking to the media following a dramatic final in which four of the seven starters dipped under the 48-second barrier.

Revealing that he had been drug-tested up to a dozen times this year, Barr declared: "I know I'm clean. I know that the Irish anti-doping system is one of the best in the world. It's just a pity that you know. . . it's really come out in recent years that not every country is like that.

"And it is very disheartening because there's a Kenyan and a Turkish guy that beat me in the final and they're countries that have had a lot of controversy over them.

Read More: Thomas is the best, Barr none: fans left heartbroken but deeply proud

"If something comes through that there is something bad, you know, something going on there with them, well and good, I'll get upgraded.

"But at the same time, I'm happy enough."

Barr accepted, however, that if he had secured a podium finish, his own improvement would have been questioned, having set two national records on the back of just 11 weeks' training after being sidelined for over two months with a hip injury.

"That's just the way it is. We were in Hong Kong last year for the World Championships and Brian Gregan (Irish 400m runner) was looking through people's progressions on the IAAF website," he said.

"It was like 100m, 12 seconds, 11, 10, nine over three years. And we were all 'ah, there's definitely something going on there'. Reading through it, then, it was like 55, 56, 50 point, 50, 49 for hurdles - 'ah, definitely something going on there'. That was my own progression from about five years ago!

"I don't want to be putting red flags on myself but there are always going to be doubts in people's minds. I know I'm clean. Anyone who's been with me all through the years knows I'm clean. I'm not hiding anything.

Read More: 'I cant put it into words'- Thomas Barr's tearful sister beams with pride after medal near miss

"As Jessie, my sister, says, I'm just a freak of nature. Fresh legs seem to bode well for me. Spark suspicion or not. I went out there and I did what I did there, and I know what I've done legitimately."

Bronze medallist Yasmani Copello is another of Turkey's 'imported' athletes.

The Cuban-born 29-year-old moved to his adopted country in 2012 and ran for them two years later for the first time.

His personal best before leaving Cuba was 49.54, set indoors. Yesterday he set a new Turkish national record of 47.92.

Prior to the Rio Olympics, Barr's fastest run came at the Diamond League meeting in Rome in 2015 when he improved his own national record to 48.65.

He broke that twice in the Olympic stadium, and his new record of 47.97 is one of the best track performances by an Irish male athlete in modern times.

Irish Independent

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