Sunday 23 October 2016

Our heroic boxers don't deserve cloud of scandal

Published 06/08/2016 | 02:30

Michael O’Reilly’s failed test is a shattering blow. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael O’Reilly’s failed test is a shattering blow. Photo: Sportsfile

There is an irony in the fact that while the Olympic flame never dies out, so many appear to be in the dark about doping and its impact. As three billion people sat down to watch the opening ceremony last night, many were scratching their heads that the Russians could be there.

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In the most explosive sporting scandal in history, the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) had found that a state-sponsored policy of doping their athletes was in place. No matter.

The first cloud of scandal over taking a banned substance hangs over Irish boxers. This is not just unfair, but monumentally so. No group of Irish athletes has brought more glory or displayed more guts than these fighters.

Michael O'Reilly's failed test is a shattering blow. Whether he appeals or not, the Irish team did not deserve this distraction. The question that must be answered is why did it take until the team was in Rio to announce a finding which has so devastated the camp?

Bewilderment and confusion abound. High performance athletes push themselves to the limits. So many Games have been marred by the fact that cheaters have taken to the winners' podium. This goes against everything that honest competition is about.

Even so, the International Olympic Committee had no problem in refusing to implement the Wada suggestion to ban Russia and make a global statement that there would be zero tolerance for cheating. Each Games comes with a shadow that gets darker because of the failure to deal adequately with this scourge. There must be no ambiguity; no athlete should ever get as far as the Olympics unless they are clean.

The IOC owes this to honest competitors. Velvet compromises and soothing expedients will not disguise a basic injustice, no matter what way it is presented. In a rare moment of humility, the greatest fighter of them all, Muhammad Ali, said: "I never thought of losing, but now that it's happened, the only thing is to do it right. That's my obligation to all the people who believe in me."

Those who believe in the Olympics feel it is the loser when it comes to doping, and it will continue to be until it is dealt with meaningfully.

Central Bank finally acts to protect the consumer

There has been understandable frustration that so much water has passed under the bridge and so little has changed in the interest of the consumer since the crash.

In the aftermath of the financial collapse, this was probably best articulated by Joseph Stiglitz, who lamented: “We have banks that are not only too big to fail, but too big to be held accountable.”

The Nobel prize-winner railed against the fact that those who played exclusively by their own rules and for their own interests, without due scrutiny, could profit so handsomely in politics and business.

But the tables are turning, and customers can look forward to a change for the better.

Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that Ulster Bank has become the third lender prepared to shell out millions in order to address the costs of restoring customers to tracker mortgages – the bank having set aside some €118m for a redress scheme.

Thankfully, the Central Bank is stepping up to the plate in a crackdown on the wrongful removal of tracker rates.

It has been accused in the past of being too preoccupied with the interests of the banks at the expense of the customer. As part of an industry-wide review, three banks have now set aside €450m for this purpose. It is good to see the Central Bank flexing its financial muscle for the benefit of the consumer.

Irish Independent

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