Athletics legend and Triple Olympian Eamonn Coghlan discussed the pressures facing athletes like Martin Fagan, (recently banned from athletics for two years after a positive drugs test) openly and frankly on Sunday’s edition of iTalkSport on Setanta Sports.
He confessed that he too had been tempted to use a performance enhancing substance back in 1988, during a “low” period in his career.
Eamonn Coghlan’s dominance on the indoor running circuit in the USA, where he had been a student at Villanova University, was such that he was known as “Chairman of the Boards”. Between 1974 and 1987 he won 52 of his 70 races over 1500m. and 1 mile but in 1988 he recalled that :
“I went through a low, perhaps the same low Martin Fagan has been going through over the last number of years. I decided to consult with a sports doctor in New York and we spoke about the use of performance-enhancing drugs. He actually gave me a prescription to go and buy the drugs. So I had this prescription on Park Avenue — and was outside the drug store. Not with my name on the prescription, but somebody else’s.
I was looking at this prescription thinking ‘will I or won’t I, will I or won’t I’. Then I just tore it up and said ‘I can’t go down this road.’
“Why would I throw away everything that I’ve achieved since I was a 12-year-old kid?”
On the question of Martin Fagan cheating athletics, Coghlan said: “Martin cheated nobody but himself. Martin took EPO to try get to the table, he wasn’t even on the playing pitch in international terms. He was a journeyman with all due respects to the lad. He never won anything in his life really on the international circuit. He was under fierce pressure because he wanted to try and make the Olympic team – and it was his last shot just to get up there. Martin had absolutely nothing else going on in his life apart from running, running, running.”
On his meeting Martin Fagan, Coghlan told Setanta::
“A couple of years ago, his dad Nicky rang me and asked would I talk with Martin. I said to Nicky ‘if Martin rings me, I’ll have a chat with him.’ So eventually Martin was back in Dublin. He gave me a call – I met him and gave him my advice. My advice to Martin was that he should come home and stay in Ireland. He would be more than welcome to join my group of lads that I coach over here.’
‘Martin wanted to compete at the highest level in the World. He wanted to go to the Olympic Games and he believed he could be a medal contender. But Martin wasn’t getting that much support to live out in Arizona. Instead of Martin being focused and single-mindedly prepared to train for making the Olympic Games, he had to go off in tangents. And when he went off in tangents he ran in stupid races – be it in Connecticut, Chicago or California. Why? Because he needed to get a couple of hundred dollars here and there just to pay his rent, just to put food on the table.”
Does Coghlan have any sympathy, one wonders for the mess in which Fagan now finds himself? :
“Martin in World terms was only a small player. He made a big mistake, but I have a lot of compassion for Martin. I don’t condone what he did, he was wrong. In fairness to him he put his hands up immediately and said ‘I did it’, let’s move on.”
And on the subject of drug testing of Irish sports stars, the former world champion, appointed to Seanad Éireann by Enda Kenny in May 2011, added:
“Irish sportspeople are probably the most tested sportspeople in the World. It’s very difficult for an Irish athlete to get away with taking drugs.”
iTalkSport with Eoin McDevitt & Paul Kimmage runs every Sunday 11:30am – 1pm on Setanta Sports.