Andree Bree felt vindicated after he was cleared following a positive drugs test earlier this year.
By John Haughey
Bree missed out on the Athens Olympics four years ago
Andrew Bree was probably the most relaxed person among his family circle and friends during his positive drugs test saga earlier this year.
"Everything happens for a reason" and "This too shall pass" are two maxims which the Northern Ireland man subscribes to.
The Olympic Games breaststroker believed throughout the months of April and May that he would be cleared.
There were suggestions that both the Irish Sports Council and Swim Ireland were concerned at what they perceived was Bree's laidback attitude to the storm.
However, he was indeed vindicated as swimming's world governing body Fina accepted his explanation that the offending Levmethamfetamine traces had been caused by him using the US version of a Vicks inhaler.
Looking back now more than two months on, the 27-year-old agrees that his family "probably did most of the worrying at home" as he got on with the job of preparing for Beijing.
In the written form saying: "I don't feel tarnished and I don't really care what people think" sound almost arrogant but that is not what comes into your mind when Bree utters them.
I feel I'm only getting my man-strength now
Maybe, it is his smile and engaging approach to the interview that disarms you as he talks at the National Acquatic Centre in Dublin.
"I'm enjoying doing this interview now and I'm going to get in the water later and have a fantastic practice and then have dinner and have a great sleep."
Bree's positivity is almost infectious and warming to his theme, he talks about how he genuinely believes that he can still be in the sport come London 2012.
"I was saying to someone the other day: 'I feel I'm only getting my man-strength now'.
"I mean, I'm having to shave a wee bit more now, I'm losing a bit of hair, but I feel I'm getting stronger and stronger.
"I'm learning something new every single day. I know for a fact, when I get out of the pool in two or three hours from here, I'm going to be taking away something new that I hadn't thought of before.
"And if that's the case, I don't know how people can say to someone at 22 or 23:'Are you not finished with that yet'."
Bree says he is in the form of his life going into Beijing
Bree points to 41-year-old Dara Torres' qualification for the US swimming team in Beijing - 24 years after her first Olympic appearance in Los Angeles.
"I don't feel there is any age limit. Look at Mark Foster too at 37. He's still getting faster."
Despite getting caught up in his own doping furore, Bree has not allowed himself to ponder the prospect that he could be competing against genuine drugs cheats in China.
"Anyone I race against, I feel it's down to hard work. I can't go out to the Olympics and be saying:'This guy is on something and that guy is taking something'.
"That will take energy away from me."
Bree never felt the need to plead victimhood during his own doping controversy because he always had that belief that he would be cleared.
There was also his perspective that life in the future would throw up bigger challenges.
"I know there are going to be way harder things to deal with," he reasons.
I think I can swim super fast and if that's a medal, that's a medal
Presumably, Bree intends to handle those slings and arrows in the same philosophical fashion that he responded to his failure to qualify for the 2004 games in Athens - four years after his promising Olympic debut in Sydney.
"I missed Athens by .4 of the second and I had to back away from the sport for a time.
"I lived a college life for a while because I felt that if I got straight back in the pool after missing the Olympics, it would have been because of an anger and not a passion for the sport."
Bree enjoyed himself during those months and piled on 25 pounds in the process but his love for the pool soon dragged him back into training.
Days ahead of his second Olympics, Bree is content that he took the break and came back refreshed and reinvigorated for the second phase of his career.
On paper, Bree's Irish record of 2:13.14 shouldn't trouble the main 200m breaststroke contenders in Beijing but the Helen's Bay native believes he is going to produce the performance of his life.
"I think I can swim super fast and if that's a medal, that's a medal. I just know I'm going to swim fast."
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