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Ireland's Smith wins third gold

Ireland's Michelle Smith sped away from the field for her third gold medal Wednesday, but still can't escape speculation that she has used banned substances.

Irish Olympic chief Patrick Hickey reacted with joy to Smith's third gold and said it was all the sweeter because of a "vicious campaign of innuendo" against her in the United States.

Smith hasn't tested positive for drugs. After her victory in the 200-meter individual medley Wednesday night, U.S. women's coach Richard Quick was asked if she should be given the benefit of the doubt.

"We've given the benefit of the doubt in this sport for 30 years," Quick said. "You need to look very closely into that rate of improvement."

Smith, 26, was ranked 41st in the world in the 400 IM and wasn't in the top 50 in the 400 freestyle. She won both those events here. She was ranked 24th in the 200 IM.

Asked directly if she had ever used performance-enhancing drugs, Smith said, "No. I have never used performance-enhancing drugs." Then she smiled.

After posting the seventh-best qualifying time in the 200 IM, she got off to a strong start in the final, leading after the butterfly and backstroke legs. But she faded to fourth on the 50-meter breaststroke lap before speeding away during the freestyle. She won in 2 minutes, 13.93 seconds.

Marianne Limpert of Canada took silver in 2:14.35, and Lin Li of China won the bronze medal in 2:14.74. Allison Wagner of Gainesville, second halfway through the race, finished eighth in 2:16.43.

On Friday, the last day of the swimming competition, Smith plans to go for her fourth gold medal when she swims the 200 butterfly. She's ranked 33rd in that.

Before Wednesday's qualifying heats, Smith said, she thought about passing up the 200 IM so she could rest for the 200 butterfly.

"But after I swam this morning," she said. "I realized the times weren't extraordinarily fast, so I decided to give it a go.

"It's like a dream. I almost can't believe it. I never dreamed of going home with three gold medals. I thought I maybe had a chance of two but I didn't know what color."

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