Atlanta Olympian Michelle Smith de Bruin has added her name to those congratulating Ireland’s latest gold medallists Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy - and took the opportunity to defend her controversial triple success in 1996.
Dublin barrister Smith de Bruin, won golds and a bronze 25 years ago amid accusations of doping. In 1998, she was given a four-year ban for tampering with a urine sample, though she never tested positive for any banned substances and always maintained that she raced clean.
Despite the question marks and the rumours, the four medals were never stripped off her record.
However, Smith de Bruin was propelled back into the spotlight again overnight when TV coverage in the aftermath of the rowing success discussed previous Irish Olympic wins - with the Dubliners name not mentioned.
“I just want to congratulate our brilliant rowers, Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan, on their wonderful achievement in becoming Ireland's newest Olympic champions,” she said in a statement provided to RTÉ’sresponding to a listener claim that she is being “written out” of Irish Olympic history. “What a stunning performance.”
Defending here record, she added:
“Twenty-five years ago this week, I became the first Irish woman to win an Olympic gold medal. By the end of that week in Atlanta I became a triple Olympic champion. It was the culmination of 17 years training and dedication to my sport.
“Standing on the podium watching the Tricolour being raised and listening to Amhran na bhFiann was and still is the proudest moment of my life.”
Despite the claim, she says that people stop her all the time to discuss the dramatic wins in 1996.
“Twenty-five years have passed and people still stop me to tell me where they were when I won my medals. I will always be incredibly proud of what I achieved in Atlanta and remain touched by the level of support still shown to me by the people of Ireland.”
As if to underscore the point, she signed off the statement: ‘Michelle Smith de Bruin, Triple Olympic Champion’.
American former world record holder Janet Evans who Smith de Bruin beat to reach an Olympic final in those Games would later apologise for highlighting rumours of the Irishwoman’s alleged doping.