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20th May 2023

Katie Taylor on “incredible” Sonia O’Sullivan injustice that denied her Olympic glory

Patrick McCarry

Sonia O'Sullivan

Such respect, and awareness of Irish sporting history.

Katie Taylor, like so many of us in Ireland, can’t get enough of her sport. She is obsessed with boxing, of course, but is across a wide range of sports, and can talk at length about various teams, players, games, moments and more.

During her visit to the JOE studio for an exclusive chat with Petesy Carroll, the Bray native touched on Irish sports stars such as Roy Keane, Conor McGregor, Deirdre Gogarty, Katie McCabe, Michael Carruth and Sonia O’Sullivan.

Having grown up in the late 1980s and 1990s, Taylor’s sporting idols were some of our best Olympic heroes and hopefuls. She was a massive fan of O’Sullivan, the middle distance runner from Cork, and feels for her that confirmed drug cheats took what should have been well-earned medals and podium-toppers away from her.

Sonia O'SullivanKatie Taylor grew up as a big Sonia O’Sullivan fan. (Credits: Matchroom/Sportsfile)

Katie Taylor on Sonia O’Sullivan injustice

Asked by Petesy Caroll to list some memorable sporting moments she enjoyed as an Irish person, Katie Taylor mentioned Ireland women’s football team qualifying for their first ever World Cup and Conor McGregor’s 13-second knock-out of José Aldo as two recent examples.

Looking further back, to when she was a young sports fanatic, Taylor brought up the 1992 Olympic boxing gold medal won by Michael Carruth, in Barcelona.

“I was only four years of age when Italia ’90 happened,” she said. I remember bits of it but, looking back on the clips, you could just see that excitement of the whole nation during that time.”

“I was six years old, watching Michael get his Olympic gold medal. As he was stepping up onto the podium, I was stepping up onto a chair, at home, envisioning me one day getting and Olympic gold medal. It was always my dream to do the same thing.”

Taylor then moved on to O’Sullivan, a 5,000-metre world champion and four-time world cross-country champion but someone that finished with a solitary silver medal from three visits to the Olympics.

“Sonia O’Sullivan was also someone who was consistently so great, coming back from Olympics and world championships with medals. She should really have two Olympic gold medals. The people that beat her they all popped [were accused of performance-enhancements].

“It’s incredible, really. She should be a two-time Olympic gold medallist.”

O’Sullivan was heavily fancied going into the 1996 Olympics, in Atlanta, but was beaten to a 5000m gold medal by Wang Junxia of China. The athlete’s coach, Ma Junren, was sacked in 2000 after six of his athletes tested positive for doping. In 2016, Tencent Sports published a March 1995 letter that was letter reportedly from Wang and nine other athletes under Ma’s tutelage. In it, they alleged Coach Ma forced them to dope.

Four years later, O’Sullivan did win a silver medal but was pipped to gold by Romania’s Gabriella Szabo, who won with only one-quarter of a second to spare. Szabo never failed a drug test but her career finished up under a huge cloud of suspicion. In 2003, border police in France stopped a car owned by Szabo, and driven by a family friend, before seizing medical products suspected to be performance-enhancing.

“It’s amazing that people got away with what they did get away with,” O’Sullivan told me, back in 2013. “It is one of those things, there’s not a lot you can do to change the past. You just hope that the people that are out there tracking the athletes, that they continue to do that.”

O’Sullivan added, “It makes you sick; more so when you look back at the different races and athletes; what they achieved. Obviously, something was not quite right.


Watch Katie Taylor vs Chantelle Cameron, this Saturday 20th May, live only on DAZN. Sign-up at

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