Saturday 3 December 2016

O'Reilly defiant but facing Rio expulsion

Alleged doping violation could spell end of Portlaoise middleweight's Olympic dream

Published 05/08/2016 | 02:30

Michael O’Reilly, in action at last year’s European Games, was tweeting about his Olympic draw hours after the news of his failed dope test broke in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Michael O’Reilly, in action at last year’s European Games, was tweeting about his Olympic draw hours after the news of his failed dope test broke in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

With his Olympic hopes now hanging by a thread, Michael O'Reilly tweeted a remarkably defiant message from Rio last night.

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The Portlaoise middleweight was named yesterday as the subject of an alleged doping violation that could see him becoming the first Irish athlete ever expelled from an Olympiad.

Yet at roughly 7.20pm (Irish-time), more than three hours after the story broke, he tweeted "Box on the 12th in the last 16 against the winner of Mexico and Iraq....."

It was a bizarre gesture given the storm clouds brewing around him and suggested wretchedly poor crisis management within the Irish camp.

O'Reilly has the right to appeal and request the testing of his 'B' sample, a process that could be completed within 48 hours, but the number of contradictory samples found in these instances is known to be minuscule.

Read more: O’Reilly storm shines an awkward light

He is provisionally suspended from even training with team-mates in the Irish camp, will not be allowed attend tonight's Opening Ceremony in the Maracana and, if found guilty, will be sent home from the Games in shame.

The latter would be a crushing blow to IABA president Pat Ryan, who has been O'Reilly's long-term coach in Portlaoise.

Granted a first round bye at yesterday's draw in Rio, the third seed for the middleweight division is not due in the Olympic ring until this day week.

Tweeting his aspirational schedule in such circumstances will scarcely have endeared O'Reilly to Irish Olympic chiefs for whom yesterday's story will represent a severe embarrassment.

Neither the OCI or AIBA named him in statements issued last night, and neither body had any visible administrative presence at yesterday's draw in a theatre in downtown Rio where the story first broke upon Irish coaches, Zaur Antia, Eddie Bolger and John Conlan.

All three were visibly startled when first informed of the news by media and subsequently avoided questioning by rushing from Teatro Bradesco to a waiting bus.

Read more: Naturally gifted...but not unfamiliar with controversy

Antia, especially, cut a faintly distraught figure, gesturing out the window that he simply did not have sufficient information to answer any questions.

There is no evidence that IABA officers were aware of the alleged violation before yesterday's draw. If it was proved they had the information, they could face sanction.

As of last night, it was up to O'Reilly to decide if he would appeal, albeit his use of Twitter suggested a boxer who still expects to grace Olympia.

Irish Independent

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