seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Michelle Smith de Bruin Stripped of Swimming Records

Michelle Smith de Bruin, Irish swimmer who achieves notable success in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, becoming Ireland’s most successful Olympian to date, is stripped of her Irish swimming records on July 16, 1999 for tampering with a urine sample.

Smith is born in Rathcoole, County Dublin on December 16, 1969. Her father teaches her and her two sisters how to swim. She first appears on the world scene as an 18-year-old at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. She also appears in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, despite suffering an injury in the months leading up to the Games.

Smith wins three gold medals and a bronze medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, making her Ireland’s most decorated Olympian. There is controversy at the games due to her qualifying for the 400m freestyle event at the expense of the then world-record holder Janet Evans, an American swimmer who finishes ninth in the preliminary swims with only the top eight advancing. Smith does not submit her qualifying time for the 400m freestyle event before the July 5 deadline but does so two days later with the Irish Olympic officials insisting they had been given permission to submit the qualifying time after the deadline.

Smith applies for the event after she arrives in Atlanta. After she qualifies at the expense of Evans, the US Swimming Federation, supported by the German and Netherlands swimming teams, challenge a decision to allow Smith to compete but are unsuccessful. At a later conference, Evans highlights that accusations of Smith doping had been heard by her around poolside. Smith later receives an apology from Evans as her comments lead to Smith being treated poorly by U.S. media.

Two years after the 1996 Summer Olympics, FINA bans Smith for four years for tampering with her urine sample using alcohol. She appeals against the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Her case is heard by a panel of three experienced sports lawyers, including Michael Beloff QC. Unusually for a CAS hearing, Smith’s case is heard in public, at her own lawyer’s request. FINA submits evidence from Jordi Segura, head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) accredited laboratory in Barcelona, which says she took androstenedione, a metabolic precursor of testosterone, in the previous 10 to 12 hours before being tested. The CAS upholds the ban.

Smith is 28 at the time, and the ban effectively ends her competitive swimming career. She is not stripped of her Olympic medals, as she had never tested positive for any banned substances.

Smith’s experiences at the CAS have an effect beyond her swimming career. It is there that she develops an interest in the law. After officially announcing her retirement from swimming in 1999, she returns to university, graduating from University College Dublin with a degree in law. In July 2005 she is conferred with the degree of Barrister at Law of King’s Inns, Dublin. While a student at the King’s Inns she wins the highly prestigious internal Brian Walsh Moot Court competition. Her book, Transnational Litigation: Jurisdiction and Procedure, is published in 2008 by Thomson Round Hall.

Smith has always denied using illegal performance-enhancing drugs. In 1996, she releases her autobiography, Gold, co-written with Cathal Dervan. She lives in Kells, County Kilkenny with her husband, Erik de Bruin, and their two children.


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Birth of Olympic Medalist Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith, married name Michelle Smith de Bruin, lawyer and retired Irish swimmer who wins four medals at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, is born in Rathcoole, County Dublin on December 16, 1969. As a result of the medals captured in Atlanta, she becomes the most successful Olympian in Ireland and the country’s first woman to capture a gold medal.

Smith begins swimming competitively at age thirteen. Though she develops into one of Ireland’s premier junior swimmers, she realizes that without more advanced facilities and training techniques, she will never be able to compete at the international level. She goes to the United States to attend school and swim at the University of Houston, where she graduates with a degree in communications. Her times steadily improve and she makes the Irish Olympic teams for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea and the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. At both of those Games, however, she is eliminated in the preliminary rounds.

In 1994 Smith moves to the Netherlands with her coach and future husband, Erik de Bruin, to prepare for the 1996 Games. The next year she emerges as an elite athlete, winning the 200-metre butterfly and the 200-metre individual medley at the 1995 European Aquatics Championships. She continues to improve in 1996, taking 19 seconds off her best time in the 400-metre freestyle. In response to questions about her sudden turnaround, she credits more sophisticated training techniques and a single-minded focus on swimming. She also points out that she is probably the most tested athlete in Irish history and that she had never tested positive for banned substances.

Prior to the Atlanta Games, Ireland had won only five Olympic gold medals, and no medal — gold, silver, or bronze — had been won by Irish women. In one week, however, Smith rewrites the Irish record books. The 26-year-old swimmer wins the gold in three events — the 200-metre individual medley, the 400-metre individual medley, and the 400-metre freestyle — and captures the bronze medal in the 200-metre butterfly. Her triumph, however, is somewhat tarnished by unsubstantiated rumours that she had used performance-enhancing drugs. Some observers question her dramatic improvements in time and point to her marriage to de Bruin, a Dutch discus thrower who had been suspended from international competition for steroid use. Smith passes all the pre- and post-Olympic drug tests, however.

Smith’s success continues at the 1997 European Aquatic Championships, where she wins gold medals in the 200-metre butterfly and the 200-metre individual medley. In 1998, however, she receives a four-year ban for tampering with a urine sample during a drug test. She maintains her innocence, but her appeal of the ban before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) fails. She is 28 at the time, and the ban effectively ends her competitive swimming career. She is not stripped of her Olympic medals, as she has never tested positive for any banned substances.

Smith’s experiences at the CAS has an effect beyond her swimming career. It is there that she develops an interest in the law. After officially announcing her retirement from swimming in 1999, she returns to university, graduating from University College Dublin with a degree in law. In July 2005 she is conferred with the degree of Barrister at Law of King’s Inns, Dublin. While a student at the King’s Inns she wins the highly prestigious internal Brian Walsh Moot Court competition. Her book, Transnational Litigation: Jurisdiction and Procedure is published in 2008 by Thomson Round Hall.

In 1996, Smith releases her autobiography, Gold, co-written with Cathal Dervan. She lives in Kells, County Kilkenny with her husband and their two children.


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“Picture Post” Magazine Banned in Ireland

picture-postPicture Post, a photojournalistic magazine published in the United Kingdom from 1938 to 1957, is banned in Ireland on July 24, 1940 after a campaign by Irish Catholics who object to the “vulgarity and suggestiveness of the illustrations.” The editorial stance of the magazine is liberal, anti-Fascist and populist.

In January 1941 Picture Post publishes their “Plan for Britain.” This includes minimum wages throughout industry, full employment, child allowances, a national health service, the planned use of land and a complete overhaul of education. This document leads to discussions about post-war Britain and is a populist forerunner of William Beveridge‘s November 1942 Social Insurance and Allied Services (known as the Beveridge Report).

Sales of Picture Post increase further during World War II and by December 1943 the magazine is selling 1,950,000 copies a week. By the end of 1949 circulation declines to 1,422,000.

Founding editor Stefan Lorant, who has some Jewish ancestry, had been imprisoned by Adolf Hitler in the early 1930s, and wrote a best-selling book thereafter, I Was Hitler’s Prisoner. By 1940, he fears he will be captured in a Nazi invasion of Britain and flees to Massachusetts in the United States, where he writes important illustrated U.S. histories and biographies. He is succeeded by Sir Tom Hopkinson following his departure in 1940.

During World War II, the art editor of the magazine, Edgar Ainsworth, serves as a war correspondent and accompanies the United States 7th Army on their advance across Europe in 1945. He visits the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp three times after the British army liberates the complex in April 1945. Several of his sketches and drawings from the camp are published in a September 1945 article, Victim and Prisoner. Ainsworth also commissions the artist Mervyn Peake to visit France and Germany at the end of the war, and he too reports from Bergen-Belsen.

On June 17, 1950 Leader Magazine is incorporated in Picture Post. Hopkinson is often in conflict with Sir Edward George Warris Hulton, the owner of Picture Post. Hulton mainly supports the Conservative Party and objects to Hopkinson’s socialist views. This conflict leads to Hopkinson’s dismissal in 1950 following the publication of James Cameron‘s article about South Korea‘s treatment of political prisoners in the Korean War.

By June 1952, circulation has fallen to 935,000. Sales continue to decline in the face of competition from television and a revolving door of new editors. By the time the magazine closes in July 1957, circulation is less than 600,000 copies a week.

Picture Post has been digitised as The Picture Post Historical Archive, 1938-1957 and consists of the complete, fully searchable facsimile archive of Picture Post. It is made available in 2011 to libraries and institutions.

(Pictured: Cover of the Picture Post Vol. 8, No. 12, dated September 21, 1940)


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Birth of Marcus O’Sullivan, Middle Distance Runner

marcus-osullivanMarcus O’Sullivan, Irish middle distance runner, is born in Cork, County Cork, on December 22, 1961. Although he does not plan to enroll at any of Ireland’s universities, his running encourages him to go to Villanova University. After four years of education at Villanova, he graduates with a degree in accounting and later attains an MBA and a CPA.

O’Sullivan quickly becomes a world class runner and takes part in four summer Olympic Games. He wins three gold medals at the IAAF World Indoor Championships over 1500m in Indianapolis (1987), Budapest (1989), and Toronto (1993). In his victories in 1987 and 1989, he sets championship records. He is third all-time in total sub-4 minute miles with 101, trailing Steve Scott (137) and John Walker (127).

At the 1985 European Athletics Indoor Championships, O’Sullivan wins a silver medal in the 1500m. He finishes 4th in the 1991 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Seville, Spain. He qualifies for Ireland for Olympic Games in 1984, 1988, 1992, and 1996, at both 800 metres and 1500 metres. He reaches the 1500 metre finals at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

O’Sullivan sets an indoor 1500 metres world record of 3:35.4 on February 10, 1989, and is generally regarded as a better competitor running indoors. This is evidenced by the fact that he wins the prestigious Wanamaker Mile in Madison Square Garden‘s Millrose Games six times (1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, and 1996).

O’Sullivan’s personal best for the mile, which is set indoors in 1988, is 3:50.94. His personal best for the 1500 metres, which is set outdoors in 1996, is 3:33.61.

O’Sullivan, along with Irish runners Ray Flynn, Eamonn Coghlan, and Frank O’Mara (who ran collegiately at the University of Arkansas) establish the still standing world record in the 4 x 1 mile relay, when they combine in Dublin on August 17, 1985 to run 15:49.08.

O’Sullivan now runs the Running Works cross country summer camp in Canadensis, Pennsylvania, along with Cricket Batz, and is the head coach of Villanova cross country and track and field. He is coached by Tom Donnelly of Haverford College and advises Bob Kennedy in the later years before Kennedy’s retirement.

In addition to his ties to American record holder Bob Kennedy, O’Sullivan has coached elite professional runners such as Canadian indoor world silver medalist Carmen Douma-Hussar and New Zealander Adrian Blincoe.