Monday 24 November 2014

Ex-priest's track record costs him his place in marathon

NICK BRAMHILL

Published 23/03/2014 | 02:30

Father Neil Horan
Father Neil Horan
Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil is grabbed by Fr Neil Horan while leading the men's Olympic marathon during the Athens Olympics in 2004

FORMER Irish priest Neil Horan has been booted out of next month's London marathon, after worried charity chiefs discovered his history of wrecking high-profile sporting events.

The defrocked cleric had been accepted to take part in the race earlier this year on behalf of St John Ambulance, a long-standing London-based charity.

However, the charity's bosses contacted him last week to say his participation had been revoked after they had been made aware of both his shameful record of disrupting major international sporting fixtures and his "extremist religious views".

The 66-year-old Kerryman had earlier this year vowed to complete the marathon to atone for his most notorious act – when he pounced on Brazilian athlete Vanderlei de Lima at the 2004 Athens Olympics in a deranged protest that almost certainly cost the athlete the gold medal.

And after receiving the green light to participate in the famous marathon in January, the London-based former churchman embarked on a gruelling daily training regime, which he described as "an act of redemption".

But last week charity chiefs wrote to Horan to inform him they had no choice but to retract their offer of a place in the line-up after learning about his infamous past acts.

Tegan Jones, head of fundraising for St John Ambulance, wrote: "As you are aware you have been offered a place in the Virgin Money London Marathon 2014 event with St John Ambulance.

"It has been brought to our attention that you have a history of disrupting major sporting events and hold extremist religious views which are not in line with St John Ambulance charity's values.

"Due to the above reasons we have no option but to retract this offer and to remove you from the London Marathon 2014 team with St John Ambulance."

In his letter, Mr Jones also promised to refund Horan's £100 (€120) registration fee, but instructed him to return any sponsorship money he had collected to the donors.

He added: "I trust that you understand and respect the difficult decision that we have made."

Dejected Horan, who in 2003 almost got himself killed when he ran out on the track during the British Grand Prix, said he was bitterly disappointed at the charity's decision. He added: "It's nearly 10 years now since I disrupted a sporting event and I've said many times that I will never do anything like that again. I'm extremely upset at this decision."

Sunday Independent

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