Sonia O’Sullivan in line for belated gold medals as Chinese rivals reportedly 'admit doping'

Sonia O’Sullivan in line for belated gold medals as Chinese rivals reportedly 'admit doping'

SONIA O’Sullivan could be awarded two gold medals for her performances in the 1993 World Championships following reports that her Chinese counterparts were forced to take illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

The Cork native finished behind three Chinese athletes in the 3,000 metre event in Stuttgart and earned a silver medal for finishing behind another Chinese opponent over 1,500m.

Qu Yunxia, Zhang Linli and Zhang Lirong made it a one-two-three for China in the 3,000m race, while Liu Dong beat O'Sullivan to gold in the 1,500m.

This seemingly golden generation of Chinese athletes were known as “Ma’s Army” due to their trainer’s name, Ma Junren, but a 21-year-old letter allegedly written by Wang Junxia, one of China’s most prominent performers at the time, claims all nine members of the team were forced into doping.

The South China Morning Post report that Zhao Yu, a Chinese journalist, was sent the letter – which claims the athletes were given “large doses of illegal drugs over the years” – shortly after it was written, but it never entered the public domain until now.

Now, according to The Irish Times, world governing body the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) will pursue the implications to determine if the letter can be verified as genuine.

Should it prove to be genuine, along with the nine signatures on the page from the other Chinese athletes involved, they may have their records and achievements revoked under the IAAF’s rule 263.3, which would in turn pave the way for O’Sullivan to have her records updated.

To date, O’Sullivan’s other career highlights include a gold medal at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg and a silver medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, both in the 5000m events, while she also boasts three gold medals from the European Championships in 1994 and 1998.

Watch the footage of O’Sullivan against the Chinese in the 1993 3,000m event in Stuttgart below.