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Rio Olympics: Thomas Barr raises suspicion over his conquerors but insists he's clean

By Sean McGoldrick

Ireland's newest Olympic hero Thomas Barr has questioned the drug testing regime in Turkey and Kenya, two of whose athletes finished ahead of him in yesterday's thrilling 400m hurdles final in Rio.

But Barr, who finished an agonising fourth in a race won by the USA's Kerron Clement in 47.73, has no desire to be awarded a medal retrospectively.

"I really hope that doesn't happen because that's a real hollow victory," said the 24-year-old Waterford native.

Barr, who became the first Irishman to dip under 48 seconds for the event, was taken away for a drug test after he finished speaking to the media following a dramatic final in which four of the seven starters broke the 48-second barrier - including Kenya's Boniface Mucheru Tumuti, who took silver, and bronze medallist Yasmani Copello of Turkey.

Revealing that he had been drug tested up to a dozen times this year, Barr declared: "I know I'm clean. I know the Irish anti-doping system is one of the best in the world. It's a pity that it's come out in recent years that not every country is like that.

"It is disheartening because there's a Kenyan and a Turkish guy that beat me in the final and they're countries that have had a lot of controversy over them.

"If something comes through that there is something bad going on with them, well and good, I'll get upgraded. But I'm happy."

Barr accepted, however, that if he had secured a podium finish, his own improvement would have been questioned, having set two national records on the back of just 11 weeks' training after being sidelined for over two months with a hip injury.

"That's just the way it is. I don't want to be putting red flags on myself but there are always going to be doubts in people's minds. I know I'm clean. Anyone who's been with me all through the years knows I'm clean. I'm not hiding anything," he said.

"As Jessie, my sister, says, I'm a freak of nature. Fresh legs seem to bode well for me, whether they spark suspicion or not. I know what I've done legitimately."

Bronze medallist Copello is one of Turkey's 'imported' athletes. The Cuban-born 29-year-old moved to his adopted country in 2012 and ran for them two years later for the first time.

His personal best before leaving Cuba was 49.54, set indoors. Yesterday he set a new Turkish national record of 47.92.

Prior to the Rio Olympics, Barr's fastest run came at the Diamond League meeting in Rome in 2015 when he improved his own national record to 48.65.

He broke that twice in the Olympic stadium, and his new record of 47.97 is one of the best track performances by an Irish male athlete in modern times.

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