Former Olympic swimmer Michelle Smith de Bruin has praised the "stunning performance" of Ireland's latest gold medallists and said she still receives public support for her 1996 Atlanta Games victories.
Ms Smith de Bruin won three gold medals. Her victories were questioned, but she still holds the medals, though she was banned from the sport two years later for manipulating a urine sample.
In a statement to RTÉ’s Liveline programme on Thursday congratulating rowers Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy on their success in Tokyo, she noted how she had become the first woman in Irish history to secure an Olympic gold.
“By the end of that week in Atlanta, I had become a triple Olympic champion,” she wrote. “It was the culmination of 17 years training and dedication to my sport.”
Describing it as the proudest moment of her life, the former swimmer said that even after a quarter of a century “people still stop to tell me where they were when I won my medals”.
"I will always be incredibly proud of what I achieved in Atlanta and remain touched by the level of support still shown to me by the people of Ireland. "
Swimming experts, many from the United States whose own swimmers were in medal contention, questioned her victories. Ms Smith de Bruin had failed to get out of the heats at the previous games in Barcelona.
In 1998, swimming’s international governing body FINA banned her for four years after she was found guilty of manipulating her urine sample in an out-of-competition test. Citing the findings of the testing laboratory, FINA’s doping panel said the sample contained an alcoholic content “in no way compatible with human consumption”.
Now a barrister, Ms Smith de Bruin never failed a drugs test and has continued to insist her success was down to hard training. She signed her statement to RTÉ "Triple Olympic Champion".