Olympics needs to target coaches of drugged athletes, says O’Rourke

Banning athletes because of doping is like picking the low-hanging fruit, former Olympian Derval O’Rourke said yesterday, suggesting that the authorities also need to go after their coaches and managers.

Olympics needs to target coaches of drugged athletes, says O’Rourke

The hurdler from Cork, who hung up her spikes in 2014, said she did not lose heart when she heard about another drugs scandal at the Olympic games. Ms O’Rourke said she was never naive about doping in sport and always felt there was more of it going on than the public realised.

“I found that frustrating, at times, because I was often quite vocal,” she said during an interview with Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ radio yesterday. However, without athletes testing positive, it was hard for the media to highlight the situation and she realised that.

“Obviously, the media needs to be careful but, as an athlete, if you are hearing whispers all the time, it is very frustrating,” she said.

Ms O’Rourke said the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) needed to make root and branch changes.

It was not enough to ban athletes for drug-taking, she said: “You need to be looking at who is coaching them, who is managing them and their national federations.”

Turkish drugs cheat Nevin Yanit beat Ms O’Rourke by 200th of a second in 2010, securing a gold medal and the European Outdoor title.

“But she [Yanit] was never drug tested at that competition so I will never get the gold from that,” she said.

Yanit tested positive for the banned synthetic steroid stanozolol after winning gold at the European Indoor Championship in 2013, when she beat Ms O’Rourke by 100th of a second.

Having finishing fourth in the race, Ms O’Rourke was promoted to the bronze medal position.

Her now one-year-old baby daughter Dafne was was two weeks old when the medal came in the post.

“It is a replica; it is not an original,” she said. “It came in an envelope. I have never even taken it out. I am not even certain where it is. It is probably in a box of baby clothes.”

For her, it was all about standing on the winner’s podium after the race.

“I needed to get the medal within a couple of months for it to matter to me,” said Ms O’Rourke.

It does matter, however. She has won five major medals — rather than being credited with four.

“I was very disappointed at that championship because I felt I ran very well. It was the quickest I had run in seven years, and I did not believe in the winner.”

Ms O’Rourke now works part-time as player development manager with the Irish Rugby Union Players’ Association and has published two cookbooks.

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