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'I'll no longer believe I'm a bad person' - Irish marathon runner Scullion explains Olympic U-turn in powerful statement

The 32-year-old had announced that he was withdrawing from the Tokyo Games over the weekend.

Stephen Scullion.
Stephen Scullion.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IRISH MARATHON RUNNER Stephen Scullion will compete at the Tokyo Olympics. 

The 32-year-old qualified for this summer’s Games in January 2020 after finishing fifth in the Houston Marathon.

He also ran the second-fastest marathon time in Irish athletics history in London last October — his time of 2:09:49 was 34 seconds slower than John Treacy’s record.

Having briefly retired from running last summer, Scullion then reversed that decision — branding it “rash”.

Due to compete at the Olympics for the first time in Japan, the Belfast native released a statement over the weekend to announce that he was withdrawing due to mental health issues. 

“I will not be going to Tokyo Olympics, and until I feel in a better place with mental health I am taking some time to myself,” he wrote on Twitter.

However, Scullion has had a change of heart after receiving support from people close to him and now says he will represent Ireland at the Games. 

In a powerful message posted on social media, he explained his reasoning and opened up about abuse he suffered as a young runner. 

“I don’t want to cause any more drama and I apologise for the mixed messages over the past few days,” Scullion wrote on social media. 

“Various events led to my decision to withdraw from Tokyo, and although I don’t need to explain myself, I want people to know my decision to withdraw from Tokyo wasn’t linked to my love for running, and it wasn’t running, or stress, or expectations, the hype, the Olympics etc. 

“If you guys know me, I LOVE expectations, I predict times, national records etc. 

“As a kid, I was abused in ways a kid shouldn’t be, and I was taught if I didn’t perform on race days I was bad, or punished.

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“I was threatened in various situations, that if I didn’t perform I’d be punished, and so I thought making a decision to withdraw myself from the Olympics would punish the person who had hurt me, and it would be a statement that suggests it wasn’t okay, and it wasn’t that treatment that enabled me to be a success story. 

With your help and the help of people close to me, I realise that’s not the right answer, and I’d only be continuing to punish myself. 

“I will no longer justify or hide from my past, it happened and that’s not okay. Whether or not it was intentional to hurt me, I will never know but I can decide to be present right now, and enjoy a wonderful life I’ve built for myself. 

“I would encourage anybody who is struggling now, or has struggled to stand up for yourself, don’t accept it, and don’t think you deserved it. 

“I have spoken with the OFI [Olympic Federation of Ireland] and Team Ireland. I’ll see you all in Tokyo and I’ll no longer believe I’m a bad person.” 

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Pieta House: 1800 247 247 (suicide, self-harm; 24/7 support)
  • Samaritans: 116 123
  • Aware: 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Teen-Line Ireland: 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline: 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

You can also text HELP to 51444 (standard message rates apply).

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