Fionnuala McCormack hails drug policy

Fionnuala McCormack believes a failed drugs test for Kenya’s Olympic marathon champion Jemimah Sumgong shows the IAAF’s policies are working.

Sumgong is the latest Kenyan athlete to fail a drugs test. The 32-year-old tested positive for banned substance EPO in an out of competition test carried out by athletics’ governing body the IAAF.

McCormack is bidding to defend her national 10k title at the Great Ireland Run tomorrow. The Kilcoole athlete was 20th in the Olympic marathon in Rio and feels despite the negative publicity drugs brings to athletics, it’s ultimately better to meet the challenges head on unlike other sports. “It’s a good thing that people get caught, because like we all know, the sport is not really that clean,” said McCormack who takes on England’s Gemma Steel in the Phoenix Park tomorrow.

“For me someone like that (Sumgong) getting caught gives you hope in a way. Looking back at the Olympics, you can pretty much put yourself up one spot. It puts you in a realistic position for doing something better the next time in Tokyo.”

McCormack is a hot favourite to defend her national 10k title and will look for another outright win at the Great Ireland Run, which sees an Ireland team take on an England team for the Sean Kyle Cup.

From there, she will look to get a qualifying time over 10,000m for the World Athletics Championships in London in August and then make a serious attempt at a fast marathon in the autumn – most likely Berlin.

“You have to look at the positives and it can only give you hope and that if they do keep catching these people then you can look at your own result more realistically – maybe I’m not that far off.”

McCormack feels, without making excuses, that non-medal-winning performances should be viewed in a better light in Ireland. “Thomas Barr came fourth (in Rio) and rightly it was a good story that he came fourth whereas other times in Ireland you are a failure for finishing 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th. Maybe sometimes those results need to be celebrated a bit more.”

Robert Heffernan is the leading name in the line-up for the 20km walk at the Podebrady race-walking event today but there has been controversy that the IAAF reportedly will vote in secret next week to remove the 50km walk from the World Championships and Olympics.

This is the event where Heffernan has world gold and Olympic bronze. It has sparked a strong reaction in the walking community. Brendan Boyce, who represented Ireland in Rio over 50km, said “If they get rid of the 50k, I’ll probably be finished with the sport and athletics as well. They’re (allegedly) planning to make a decision now and scrap it next year - which is ridiculous. You can’t give athletes a year’s notice about their whole careers.

“We cannot allow a secret vote on the future of our sport. We all understand that sport is always changing and up for debate. So why not have this debate with the athletes, and not go behind their backs and decide to cancel the event without any word to those who will be affected most. The IAAF has not changed since Seb Coe’s arrival. We need real athlete representation on the IAAF council.”


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