A New Zealand Olympic medallist who competed at the Tokyo Olympics alongside Peter Snell says he knew the singlet recently claimed to have been the champion runner's was a fake the moment he saw it.

"It's not a Tokyo singlet," former marathon runner Barry Magee said. "It's not even a good fake. Te Papa have done the right thing."

Magee won a bronze medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics marathon, and he won the Fukuoka marathon in Japan in the same year.

With Snell, he trained under legendary running coach Arthur Lydiard, and now, at 82, Magee continues to coach top Kiwi runners.


At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, where Snell won gold in the 800m and 1500m, Magee finished 23rd in the 10,000m, but did not start the marathon because of injury. Nevertheless, he still has his singlet from the games and says it is made of a nylon or rayon-type fabric, rather than cotton, the fabric in the singlet which Te Papa bought through Cordy's auction house.

Magee said he was just one of anyone on the 1964 Olympic team who would confirm the singlet was not genuine. He said Te Papa had checked "two or three singlets from Tokyo, just to make sure - including mine".

On Thursday, Te Papa announced it had pulled the plug on the purchase of the singlet, which it had bought last week for $122,500.

Chief executive Rick Ellis said he was disappointed the singlet was not genuine, "but our inquiries have shown that the singlet is not the one worn by Peter Snell at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Game".

Auctioneer Andrew Grigg said he was "devastated" to discover it was not the singlet Snell wore at the 1964 Olympics.

Te Papa would not comment on how it determined the singlet was fake, but said an independent expert would be reviewing the purchase process.