Mageean: 'If that was my coach, I would be absolutely distraught that they had cast a shadow over me'

A fascinating interview with Ireland’s recent world finalist on Off The Ball AM this morning.

Source: Off The Ball/YouTube

FRESH BACK ON home soil after her World Athletics Championship exploits in Doha, Ireland’s Ciara Mageean has put her own stellar performances aside to shine a light on the doping controversy with tarnished the meet.

Alberto Salazar was slapped with a four-year ban mid-championships after being found guilty of doping violations by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada).

Many of his athletes at his Nike-backed Oregon Project went on to medal in Qatar, one of those Sifan Hassan who won Mageean’s 1,500m final.

The Ethiopian-born Dutch runner clocked a blistering time of 3:51.95, which comes as the sixth-fastest in history, and sliced around seven seconds off the 16-year-old championship record. Incredibly, Hassan also won gold in the 10,000m a week prior.

Portaferry star Mageean recorded a new personal best of 4:00.15, and finished 10th in a phenomenal field, as she became the first Irish female athlete to contest a World Athletics Championships 1,500m final since Sonia O’Sullivan achieved the feat in 1997.

While Mageean spoke to RTÉ’s Game On last night, the 26-year-old doubled down on her stance in an interesting, and extremely honest, interview today on Off The Ball AM.

ciara-mageean-running-in-the-womens-1500m-final Mageean running in the 1,500m final Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“That women’s 1,500 was the fastest 1,500 really in history,” she told Ger Gilroy, reflecting on Saturday’s final.

“My time would have won seven out of the past eight world championships. The girl who came fourth ran 3:54. I watched her cool down on the indoor track with tears in her eyes. She ran 3:54 and came fourth at a world champs.

“Now, there’s performances at that championship that I am absolutely in awe of because I believe that those athletes have done it and that they deserve the credit for the hard work they’ve put in.

“Then, when you have athletes who have doubts and questions over their head, they ruin that for the rest of us. It is tough.”

Mageean, who revealed she was woken up at 6pm this morning to be tested, added: “I train my whole life, I work my backside off to dedicate my life’s work to athletics and it is so infuriating us that people are still out there manipulating it.

In the wake of the race, she says she was unaware of Hassan’s time until she got into the mixed zone.

“I came off the track and didn’t know what time she had run until I met [Irish sports journalist] Cathal Dennehy. He was like, ‘What did you think of Hassan’s performance?’ I knew won, but when he said 3:51, I just went, ‘Eh… what?! 3:51? Oh, that’s fast.

sifan-hassan-celebrates-winning-the-womens-1500m-final Hassan after winning on Saturday night. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I walked to my coach having run a PB to come top-10 in a world championships — I would have taken his hand off to be offered that at the beginning of the year — and I came away thinking, ‘What can I do?’

My dream is to win world-class medals for Ireland, and I know that I can run sub-four minutes and get into the realms of, I don’t know, lets dream 3:55, but I do know that I will not run 3:51. That’s not a realistic goal for me. Now, can humans do that? Who knows.

“With questions over it, we can’t appreciate fully what a clean human being can do.”

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Eloquent throughout, with the passion for her sport shining through, Mageean spoke of how “disappointing” the entire situation as a whole is. 

With a clip played on the show of an emotional Hassan speaking to the BBC afterwards, the world champion made her anger clear — but not anger directly at Salazer. In many interviews, she has strongly defended both herself and her coach, adding that she’s open to being tested every day.

Mageean says that is frustrating because she would distance herself from a coach — or anyone else — if they were associated with doping.

“A lot of the athletes came off and they said they’re very angry about what happened with Salazar, but they weren’t angry with Salazer,” she added. “If that was my coach, I would be absolutely distraught that they had cast a shadow over me as an athlete.

Everything I do is to represent my country and my family with pride, and to know that I’m a clean athlete. I think people need to be angry with Salazar. If somebody’s willing to murk the waters, it is good that they’re challenged.

In the fascinating 30-minute long interview, she also spoke plenty about her own performances in Doha and her career in general, coming home to Down and chasing O’Sullivan’s record.

You can listen here, or watch the above video.

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Emma Duffy

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