THE political fallout from the Olympic doping scandal began last night as the opposition hit out at the "incredible stupidity" of using banned substances on horses.
Sports Minister Martin Cullen was expected to fly from Beijing to Hong Kong if rider Denis Lynch and his horse Lantinus had won a medal in the final of the Olympic show jumping competition.
But he was staying silent last night as the controversy over the horse's positive test for the banned substance capsaicin continued to grow.
Fine Gael sports spokeswoman Olivia Mitchell said it was an understatement to say it was disappointing because "we knew we were going to be in the spotlight".
"If it wasn't cheating, it was incredible stupidity," she said.
Although Ms Mitchell said there was a need to wait for the full details to emerge, she warned that any wrong-doing must be met with "swift condemnation and appropriate sanctions".
Back in 2004, there was a broad welcome across the political establishment for the gold medal won by show jumper Cian O'Connor -- and massive embarrassment when he had to hand it back after his horse Waterford Crystal tested positive for banned substances.
Ms Mitchell said the public would be asking how on earth this was allowed to happen again after Ireland's experiences at the last Olympics in Athens.
"It is well known that capsaicin is a banned substance. Considering all the expertise available, and Ireland's loss of a medal at the last Olympics due to drug offences, it begs the question: how could this happen again?" she said.
Ms Mitchell said the scandal would cause dismay among the public.
"It dashes high hopes of another medal in the worst possible way," she said.
Last month, the Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Sports and Tourism devoted several hours to exploring the issues surrounding Ireland's participation at the Olympic Games.
Several members, including Green Party leader Mary White, Fine Gael TD Michael Ring and Fianna Fail TD Michael Kennedy, expressed the hope that it would be a "clean games".
But the announcement of the positive drugs test for Lantinus will increase the pressure on the sport's governing body, Horse Sport Ireland, to come up with a response.