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Wednesday, 29 April, 1998, 19:00 GMT 20:00 UK
Irish swimmer denies drugs claims
Michelle Smith's success at 1996 games prompted drug allegations
Olympic champion swimmer Michelle De Bruin has vigorously protested her innocence over accusations that she has been using drugs to better her performance.

The Irish swimmer claimed she was innocent of allegations that she had tampered with an out-of-competition drugs test and warned that she would fight the charge "all the way".

She told a news conference: "I'm innocent of these charges and I'm appalled at the manner in which they've been leaked into the public domain.

"I have no intention of taking this lying down and I have no intention of being bullied by any organisation, national or international."

The swimmer who, under her maiden name Michelle Smith, won three gold medals at the 1996 Olympic Games, is under investigation by International Swimming Federation after it said the doping sample taken in November last year showed clear signs of contamination.

Sport's ruling body, Fina, has ordered De Bruin to appear before its doping panel. If the claims are proven, the 28-year-old could be banned for life from the sport.

The swimmer, who is married to her Dutch coach, Erik De Bruin, stunned the sports world by winning three gold medals and one bronze at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.

She later had to fend off innuendoes about drugs use, but was fêted by crowds on her return to Dublin. The swimmer followed up that success by winning more medals at the European Championships in Spain last August.

But even after those victories, there was still an apparent reluctance on the part of the Irish Government to join her homecoming reception.

De Bruin has been tested for drugs a number of times in the past, but so far none has been positive.

She has received support from fellow swimmers. Adrian Moorhouse said: "I'm not sure if she could have done anything like this.

"Out of competition, testing is no different in that a swimmer provides a sample in front of witnesses, it's sealed and sent to a laboratory."

BBC News
Michelle De Bruin protests her innocence at a news conference (1'28")