Westmeath’s second-ever Olympian Martin Fagan (28 ) received a two-year ban from all competition this week after his prompt admission to doping offences.
The Grange native admitted to the Irish Sport Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel on Tuesday that he had injected EPO the day before he underwent an out-of-competition test in Tuscon, Arizona at the start of December, and the ban was handed down by Athletics Ireland and the Irish Sports Council.
Because of his early admission, the start of the two years was backdated to December 10, the date his sample was taken at his high-altitude training centre in Tucson, Arizona.
Though he will be able to return to competitive action in 2014, there is a lifetime ban on any further Olympic participation for anyone found guilty of a doping offence.
Fagan has 14 days to appeal the ban, a move that would be highly unlikely after his admission of guilt which came in the wake of some highly personal revelations to Ian O’Riordan in The Irish Times earlier this week as to just how lonely the life of the long distance runner is.
In it he admitted purchasing the EPO (erithropoetin - a product that allows for greater oxygen retention within the red blood cells ) off the internet, and then self-injecting one of the most easily detected substances the day before a test.
“When you’re already on medication you’re in that mentality, that I can take something to get through this, to fix this,” said Fagan.
“That’s when I thought of EPO. That was my medication, the chemical I needed. I never would have even contemplated that before. That was something else I know I should have spoken to someone about, but I didn’t think I had that option. I only cared about the running, not the Martin Fagan. It was my last hope.
“And I never once thought I was taking EPO to cheat, or to break a world record, or anything like that. I didn’t even take EPO to win anything. I just wanted to feel good again, to get back to normal.”
“This positive test, the ban, is only the small issue. The bigger issue for me right now is getting myself mentally right again. I know that’s going to take time but I know I’m around the right people now, my family, and friends.”
Martin Fagan came to athletic prominence when he ran just 42 seconds off the senior national record in a 3,000m race in Santry when he was just 17, and became the 15th Mullingar athlete to be offered a sports scholarship with an American university.
He qualified for the marathon at the Beijing Olympics by running 2:14:07 in the second fastest race of all time in Dubai in January 2008, and did so with a pelvis fractured in three places.
This puts in perspective the level of agony that forced him to drop out of the Chicago marathon in October with less than two miles to run, whilst he had been on course to post a qualifying time for the London Games this summer.
“If only I’d got to the line I could’ve run a sub-2:12...instead I got nothing out of it. No money, a DNF [did not finish] against my name, and no one cared. That really broke me, the final nail in the coffin, really.”
He was funded by the Irish Sports Council to the tune of €12,000 for 2009 and 2010, but had this funding stopped last January.
Martin Fagan became only the second ever Olympian from Mullingar, behind Cormac Finnerty who competed in the 5,000m in Atlanta in 1996.
Martin was quickly followed by the talented boxers John Joe Nevin and John Joe Joyce who also qualified for Beijing in March 2008. Nevin has since qualified in October for his second Games.
Athlone Town FC provided five members of the Free State soccer team for Amsterdam in 1924, and Custume Barracks provided a similar number for the State’s basketball team in London 1948, but it is not known how many of these were Westmeath natives.