Thursday 29 September 2016

Michael O’Reilly faces two year ban after being expelled from Olympics

Irish boxer Michael O'Reilly out of Olympics after he admits taking supplement that 'may have contained a banned substance'

Sean McGoldrick in Rio

Published 09/08/2016 | 19:15

Michael O’Reilly has lodged a formal appeal in doping scandal
Michael O’Reilly has lodged a formal appeal in doping scandal

MICHAEL O'Reilly faces at least a two year ban from boxing after becoming the first ever Irish athlete to be expelled from the Olympics for failing a dope test.

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The five day saga surrounding his failed test drew to a close last night when the 22 year old middleweight issued a short statement to RTE admitting that he had 'unintentionally took a supplement that may have contained a prohibited substance.'

Even though it's not known whether he knew the result of the B sample before he made his first public comment on the controversy, the tone of the statement suggests that he has accepted his fate and has given up on what was always a forlorn chance of being cleared to make his Olympic debut on Friday.

Read more: David Oliver Joyce bows out of the Olympics but goes down swinging

The 23 year old middleweight, who won a bronze medal on his debut at the World championships in Doha last October, was one of Ireland's best prospects for a boxing medal in Rio. He was seeded at number three which meant he was just two wins away from securing a place on the podium

His dreams are now in tatters while the reputation of Irish sport and boxing, in particular, has taken a severe battering

Even though O'Reilly has had brushes with the boxing authorities in the past a doping offence – even if he can prove was unintentional - is on a completely different scale to his previous disciplinary issues.

In 2001 he required the intervention of a High Court judge to clear him to box in the European Youth championships in Dublin after being dropped from the Irish team for a breach of discipline.

O'Reilly, who was the last Irish boxer to qualify for Rio, was sent home from a tournament in Turkey earlier this year and fined a reported €5,000 – later waived – for an unspecified breach of discipline.

Even though he claims in his statement that he 'unintentionally took a supplement that may have contained a prohibited substance', this a defence traditionally cuts little ice with the authorities and O'Reilly's career is essentially in tatters.

Read more: 'Probably the most idiotic decision he has ever made': Bernard Dunne didn't hold back when slamming Michael O'Reilly

Once his ban is confirmed his funding will be cut by Sports Ireland and, of course, he will be banned from competing and from training with the IABA's High Performance Unit.

The controversy is particularly embarrassing for IABA President, Pat Ryan as he nurtured O'Reilly's career from when the Clonmel born boxer linked up with Portlaoise Boxing Club when he was in his teens

In a contrite statement O'Reilly offers a 'sincere apology to his fellow boxers, team mates, the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, Sport Ireland, the Olympic Council of Ireland and to all those who have supported him.”

He claims that the adverse findings arises out of a matter which was 'not deliberate or intentional' but the statement acknowledges that he took the supplement.

“Mr O'Reilly now freely admits that he unintentionally took a supplement that may have contained a prohibited substance. Mr O'Reilly was given this supplement by someone unrelated to his team or association".. Michael O'Reilly disclosed, at the time of the test, that he had taken the supplement.”

The OCI also released a statement tonight:

"The OCI can today confirm that Michael O'Reilly is no longer contesting the provisional suspension imposed on him on the 4 August 2016 and will not compete for Team Ireland at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games."

Once news of his failed drug test broke last Wednesday O'Reilly was segregated from the other Irish boxers and stayed in a different part of the Athletes' Village in Rio. But it was not clear last night whether he had yet left this accommodation and was on the way home to Ireland.

Here is the statement in full:

"Mr O'Reilly received notification on 4 August 2016 that an adverse finding had been made against him. The adverse finding arises out of a matter which was not deliberate or intentional.

"Having received further information, Mr O'Reilly now freely admits that he unintentionally took a supplement that may have contained a prohibited substance. Mr O'Reilly was given the supplement by someone unrelated to his team or the association. Michael O'Reilly disclosed, at the time of the test, that he had taken the supplement.

"Mr O'Reilly offers his sincere apology to his fellow boxers, team-mates, the Irish Athletic Boxing Association, Sport Ireland, The Olympic Council of Ireland and to all those who have supported him."

O'Reilly has left the Olympic village in Rio but there is still confusion over whether he has left Brazil on his long trek home.

Assistant Irish boxing coach Eddie Bolger said as far as he knew O'Reilly was on his way home.

However, an official statement issued by the Irish Amateur Boxing Association only confirmed that O'Reilly had left the Olympic village and would have no further involvement in the Rio Olympic Games.

“The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) will be making arrangements for him to return to Ireland as soon as possible,” said the statement.

Bolger said the coaches had been kept in the dark about the situation.

“I don't want to sound too dismissive of that thing because there are families involved. I never give it a thought because honestly you can't.

“As far as I know now he has dropped his appeal and he's on the way home now,” said Bolger.

The IABA statement said: ''we are very disappointed that Michael may have taken any supplement without consulting the IABA High Performance Support Team. Educating athletes of the risks proposed by supplements is provided to all our boxers as part of the High Performance Programme.”

The statement said it noted that O'Reilly had indicated he had had unintentionally took a supplement that may have contained a prohibited substance. “We note he has offered his sincere apology to his fellow team members, IABA, Sport Ireland and the Olympic Council of Ireland,” he said.

The President of the IABA Pat Ryan, who O'Reilly's club coach, was present in the Riocentro last night to watch Joyce's fight but didn't comment on the controversy.

It is eight years since the last major doping controversy hit Ireland during an Olympic Games. In Beijing in 2008, Denis Lynch withdrew from the showjumping final which was held in Hong Kong four hours before it was due to start after his horse Lantinus tested positive for the banned substance capsaicin.

Lynch claimed the substance was present in a cream called Equiblock – which is similar to 'deep heat' used by humans – which he put on the horse. In October 2008 the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) suspended Lynch for three months.

In wake of the Athens Games in 2004, Cian O'Connor was stripped of his gold medal when it emerged a month after the games that his horse, Waterford Crystal, has tested positive for a prohibited substance. While FEI found that he did not deliberately attempt to affect the performance of his horse he was banned for three months.

Swimmer Michelle Smith de Bruin was banned from competition for four years after the world swimming body (FINA) found she had tampered with a drug test two years after winning three gold medal and a bronze at the Atlanta Games in 2006.

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