Portaferry’s Ciara Mageean became the toast of Ireland a few short weeks ago when qualifying for the World Championships 1500m final, a first for the nation since the great Sonia O’Sullivan in 1997.
The County Down native went on to record a personal best of 4:00.15 en route to a tenth place finish in a finale that will go down as one of the fastest 1500m races in history.
Nine places and nine seconds is what separated Mageean from gold as Sifan Hassan completed a unique double claiming both the 10,000m and 1500m titles with an astonishing time of 3:51.95.
However, Hassan’s amazing victory was clouded in controversy after her coach Alberto Salazar was handed a four-year ban for doping violations just a few days out from the race.
Suspicions have obviously been raised given the link between the pair and Mageean admits it is hard not to be suspicious when competing against athletes that Salazar has worked with.
“It raises suspicion around the athletes he (Salazar) is coaching,” Mageean told Pundit Arena at the launch of Circle K’s “Here for Ireland” initiative.
“It is tough, I’ve been asked a good few times what I thought of it. It is hard as an athlete when you go out in a race and you do wonder, ‘in that field, how many people in that field are clean and not clean?’
“Some people will come to me and say, ‘that’s a top five performance for me or that’s a top seven performance for me’ indicating that they have a suspicion on whatever percentage of the field.
“For me, I came tenth in the world and I’m proud of that, I’m happy with that. I want more. I walked off that track happy. I had an interview with Cathal (Dennehy) and he told me that she (Hassan) ran 3:51 and I couldn’t believe it. If anybody heard the interview, I was like, ‘She wha? 3:51?’ I didn’t think it was possible to go out in a championship race and race that all on your own at the front.
“I met Steve (Vernon) straight away and he was happy. I did have a few choice words to him that I won’t repeat because I don’t want it written down. Ultimately, it was saying, ‘What do I have to do?’ I finished that race and I didn’t see the times. I thought the girls must have run 3:55, 3:56 and it was a fast race. They were miles ahead of me, I should have realised.
“I can’t make up nine seconds. There’s not nine seconds in me, no matter what I do. What I do cleanly, there’s not nine seconds in me. That’s really hard.
“All I can say is what can I possibly do myself. Within my realm, what would I dream of? A 3:55 would be something absolutely amazing. It’s probably more realistic to beat Sonia’s national record (3:58.85). If I could get down to 3:57, I would walk away from my athletic career extremely happy. I’ll never get to 3:51 as a clean athlete.
“I’m very happy to say that I will try my absolute best to be as fast as I can as a clean athlete and represent Ireland with pride. To walk off the track knowing that I’ve done everything that I can and that I can be proud of it as an honest athlete.”
Mageean went on to say she is happy at the work being put in to catch drug cheats before regaling how she has been tested three times in three weeks, including on the morning her boyfriend’s grandmother was to be buried.
“I have been tested three times in the last three weeks. I was in my boyfriend’s house in Kells and the testers came at 6am – his granny was being buried on that day. Yesterday, the same thing happened at the same house – the testers came calling again.
“Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you’re a bit, ‘Oh my goodness’.
“It’s not the tester’s fault – they are told to come. They didn’t know my boyfriend’s granny had passed away and that the funeral was on that day. All I could do was apologise to the family because I’m the oddball that gets called for pee and blood.
“People don’t really realise about that part but it is disruptive to your life. I just wanted to stay in bed and cuddle my boyfriend that I never get to see.
“I’m happy to be tested and I’m happy that they are investing that money there. I’d never take it out on the people that come to my door. They are doing me a good service by coming to test me. I might be a little grumpy when I open the door – I think most people are at 6am.”
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