Athletics

'That's Become My Life, It's Like Being On Parole. That's A Hard Thing'

'That's Become My Life, It's Like Being On Parole. That's A Hard Thing'

Ciara Mageean says that a cloud hangs over Sifan Hassan's double gold medal-winning performance at the World Athletics Championships.

The Dutch athlete won an unprecedented 10,000m and 1,500m double in Doha. It's the first time those two events have ever been won by the same athlete at a single Olympic Games or World Championships.

Hassan won the 10,000m on September 28th. On October 1st, her coach, Alberto Salazar - head of the Nike Oregon Project - was banned for four years for doping violations.

Hassan joined Salazar's training group in late 2016, a year after an investigation into him got underway.

On the penultimate evening of the championships, Hassan won the 1,500m in an incredible 3:51.95 - the sixth fastest time ever for the distance.

"Her coach was escorted off the premises - he wasn't allowed to be in the athletics venue," Mageean told 2FM's Game On.

"As an athlete, you are accountable for your athletic performance and the associations you make in this sport. If you associate with a coach who is known to have doping offences, you are opening yourself up to questions.

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"The fact that she ran the 10k with a sub four-minute 1,500m to finish it and then 3:51 gun to tape [in the 1,500m], yeah, it's an interesting one."

While finishing 10th in the 1,500m final, Mageaan ran a personal best of 4:00.15, going agonisingly close to becoming just the second Irish woman ever to go under four minutes. Her immediate reaction to hearing Hassan's time was one of major surprise.

"I didn't actually look at the board - I don't know why, it's probably because I was going to throw up," she said.

I walked off the track and it was one of the American girls that told me I'd run a PB. I went through the media, got to Cathal [Dennehy] and he said, 'What do you think of Hassan?' I knew she'd won and he said in 3:51. I think my face said it all, 'I went, she ran 3:51? Jesus, well, isn't it a privilege to be in a race like that'.

A lot of athletes were shocked with that time. I know the American girl Shelby Houlihan. I watched her cool down on the indoor track with tears in her eyes. She ran 3:54 to come fourth in a World Champs. That's something... I can't have words for it.

Mageean believes that the four-year ban which has been given to Salazar is not long enough.

"If you test positive in our sport, yeah, maybe there should be a lifetime ban.

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"If you're putting athletes lives at risk, their health at risk in order to gain an athletic advantage... he's made huge benefits from our sport.

"I want to see our sport clean. I want to step out onto the track, look left to right and know that the athletes there have had the same opportunities as me and are as clean as me.

"I'm on a whereabouts system. I have to tell the Irish Sports Council where I am every single day. That's hard, I forget sometimes. My boyfriend turned to me last night and said, 'Have you updated your whereabouts?' My loved ones turn to me before I go to bed and say, 'Make sure that is updated'.

"That's become my life, it's like being on parole. That's a hard thing. If I was close to three missed tests, you can be sure that I would get a tattoo on my arm which said 'whereabouts' that reminded me to update it.

"It's tough to question your counterparts.

"It makes it hard for us, we not only lose out on medals but you also lose out on financial support whenever you are robbed of positions due to possibly dirty athletes.

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"It's something we need to stand up and question. As an athlete, I need to do it too."

Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

See Also: Johnson Has Message For Angry Athletes After Emotional Hassan Interview

PJ Browne
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