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Olive Loughnane hits out at IAAF, backs Irish athletes

“You’re talking about athletes being allowed to compete while they were banned.”

Olive Loughnane is a former Irish race walker.
Olive Loughnane is a former Irish race walker.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

FORMER IRISH ATHLETE Olive Loughnane has criticised the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)  following recent revelations regarding doping in The Sunday Times.

The paper claims to have obtained an IAAF database containing 12,000 blood tests of around 5,000 athletes from 2001 to 2012, though athletics’ global governing body released a statement on Sunday insisting any information had been obtained illegally.

And the retired race walker — who was awarded a retrospective World Championship gold medal after the ‘winner’ of her race back in 2009, Russia’s Olga Kaniskina, was found guilty of doping — believes serious questions must now be asked of the IAAF.

“The IAAF don’t seem to be clamping down on it as much as they can,” she told Newstalk’s Off the Ball. “Until the countries themselves get tough on it, I don’t think it’s going to work.

“You’re talking about athletes being allowed to compete while they were banned — competing in Russia while serving bans. Athletes who previously were banned serving as officials.

“There are clearly questions to be raised around IAAF… [Seb Coe] has a big task ahead of him to restore the credibility of anti-doping efforts.”

Loughnane explained how the news was of particular significance to her personally and added that she had little doubt about the identity of the culprits.

“It’s tarnishing the sport. What’s particularly frustrating for me personally is that in my event, there was something like 28 out of 54 suspicious winners, which is incredible.

“Some former athletes have called for people to be named, but I don’t need people to be named, I know who 20-24 of those athletes are. They relate specifically to a pocket of Russian athletes, including the winner of my race… It’s clearly systematic in that country.

“A particular coach in my event has had something like 25 of the athletes banned.”

However, while condemning those involved, Loughnane says there were positives to take from an Irish perspective.

“The figures have borne out the fact that the Irish system is effective. Something like 3-4 athletes tested positive over that period.

“It’s just not tolerated in Ireland. It’s just so frustrating that it casts aspersions on the whole sport.”

She had further stern words for the IAAF, but urged fans not to lose faith with athletics ahead of the 2016 Olympics.

“The IAAF were potentially turning a blind eye to this — that’s just disgusting… That was the bit of the whole controversy that hit me the hardest.

“I wouldn’t say lose all faith [in the sport]… I won a medal despite everything. Lots of Irish athletes have won.

“Certainly there are problems, but [winning clean] can be done and it has been done.”

Additional reporting by AFP

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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