Irish athletics boss Patsy McGonagle fears doping crisis extends beyond Russia

The Ireland athletics team manager fears the unfolding doping and corruption scandal may extend beyond Russia, who were accused yesterday of “sabotaging” the London Games.

Responding to the independent commission report released by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Patsy McGonagle, who led the Irish athletics team at the 2012 Olympics, told Highland Radio: “I have to say, this may not be confined to Russia. The commission did say today that there were other countries suspected of high levels of doping so this is serious and the sport needs to deal with it in a very, very, very serious manner in the interest of the young people [who will] become involved and who are involved in the sport.”

Russia faces being banned from the Rio 2016 Olympics after the WADA investigation revealed “state-sponsored” doping on a wide scale, including the destruction of more than 1,400 athlete samples in a Moscow laboratory.

That finding didn’t surprise McGonagle. “In the sport, you talk about many things, but there was no confirmation until today,” said McGonagle.

Referring to the allegations that former IAAF president Lamine Diack took bribes from Russia Athletics to cover up positive tests, McGonagle added: “When you ally it with the allegation that IAAF officials have been complicit in the situation, it’s a serious day for athletics. One only hopes that Seb Coe will respond strongly in the interest of the sport.”

Former Irish Olympian Colin Griffin also looked to the new IAAF chief, tweeting: “The politics and canvassing is over. He’s got his dream job. Now time to see what he’s made of.”

The damning report did hold a silver — or bronze — lining for Irish athletics. The case of Russian Sergey Kirdyapkin, who won the men’s 50km walk in London, where Rob Heffernan finished fourth, is referred to extensively in the WADA report.

After abnormal test results, Russian Anti-Doping Agency RUSADA banned Kirdyapkin from October 15, 2012 and also disqualified some of his results in 2009, 2010 and 2011. But his Olympic gold stood, pending an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) taken by the IAAF.

Of Kirdyapkin, the report says: “This case is particularly suspect and the IC recommends WADA investigate further.”

The CAS hearing is expected to pave the way for a retrospective gold medal for Australian Jared Tallent and a bronze for Heffernan. Yesterday, the Corkman changed his Twitter profile to: “World Champion, European medalist, Olympic medalist in waiting” and expressed confidence he would soon get his hands on a bronze medal. “Official News of my Olympic bronze could be on the way #mixedemotions.”

Speaking to the Irish Examiner last week before the latest revelations, Heffernan said: “The athlete was banned after the Olympics and before the Olympics and in the window he wasn’t banned, he won the Olympics. It’s Father Ted stuff, it’s worse. When the case is dealt with, it should be a formality.”

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