Mark English says drug cheats should be banned for life

European Indoor silver medalist says sport has been badly tarnished by cheats

When an athlete with the intelligence of Mark English calls for lifetime bans for doping offences it's definitely time to take notice.

For English – who is midway through his medical studies at UCD – part of his reasoning is that athletes who took banned substances will always feel lasting benefits.

“The sport has been so tainted by drugs at the moment that you just can’t give second chances,” says English.

“Maybe a few years ago I would have said differently, that people deserved a second chance, but I didn’t realise how much drugs have tainted our sport, and the amount of people that aren’t believing in it.


Longest ban

“I don’t think it will happen, and four years will be the longest ban that will be there. But there are a lot of articles now about how athletes retain benefits from doping, in the long run. So that’s another reason, for me, why there should be lifetime bans.”

The European Indoor silver medalist over 800m also includes Martin Fagan in that category.

Fagan has come back from a two-year doping ban for EPO to run the qualifying time for the Olympic marathon in Rio, the first and only Irish male qualifier so far.

“I don’t think he should be picked, and that’s my own personal view,” says English. “If I were him, I wouldn’t compete again, for the sake of it, and if he really loves the sport he probably shouldn’t.”

More testing

For English – speaking at the launch of the new Community Games Healthy Ireland initiative – the subject of drug testing in the GAA also came up. "I think people need to believe in the sport they're watching. Not just the GAA, but more in rugby too, and I think in soccer. I think they need to bring in more testing there."

With his latest medical exams at UCD now over, English is ready to open his outdoor season on Sunday week, in Hengelo in the Netherlands. Then, two days later, he will race David Rudisha over 600m in Ostrava.

“I’m really looking forward to that,” he says. “It would be a great thing to do, to beat him.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics