Sport Rio 2016 Olympics

Monday 5 December 2016

O'Reilly won't get 'B' sample tested as boxer takes case straight to appeal

Niall O'Connor and Alan O'Keeffe

Published 06/08/2016 | 02:30

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

Irish boxer Michael O'Reilly will not request the testing of his 'B' sample but has chosen instead to go straight to appeal.

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Sources close to the athlete insisted last night that he would rigorously challenge his suspension from the Rio Games.

Possible grounds for such an appeal range from having inadvertently consumed a contaminated substance that had been tampered with to ingesting something prohibited through "no fault or negligence" on his part.

The appeal will be heard by the Irish Sports Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel.

The Irish Independent has been told that the boxer has a "strong case" and that any violation was "not intentional".

"Michael is not a cheat. This was a simple mistake," one well-placed source said.

O'Reilly (23), who boxes out of Portlaoise Boxing Club, has been segregated from his team-mate since news broke of his alleged doping offence.

It is understood that he was in crisis talks with lawyers yesterday as the controversy overshadowed the opening ceremony of the Games.

O'Reilly's fellow Irish Olympians took part in the opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium last night.

Anti-doping officials had been ready to test O'Reilly's 'B' sample once he formally launched his appeal.

Some of his family and coaches were due to fly out to Rio this weekend amid concerns for the boxer's wellbeing.

"He's in the depths of despair," a source said.

Last night, O'Reilly's coach, Pat Ryan, declined to comment other than to say that "due process" must be respected.

Meanwhile, locals in Portlaoise have reacted with shock to the news.

Patrick Ryan (29), the son of O'Reilly's coach, said: "Something as simple as a Lemsip Max could cause a fail.

"Michael was tested 15 times in the last three years and in the last three or four months he was tested five times.

"They were all random and he passed them all."

Speaking at the Ryan family home in Portlaoise, he said his father Pat, who is president of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, was in Dublin for meetings about the bombshell dope test result.

"My dad is devastated. He is flying to Rio on Sunday," he said.

Patrick Ryan cited an example of an Irish swimmer who once failed a test because of the use of an inhaler and who was later cleared.

He hoped that there would yet be a similar favourable outcome for the boxer.

He continued: "I've often been in the gym, helping with his training. This result is a disaster. It's a bombshell. My dad has been his coach since he was 12 or 13.

Coach

"Michael was on the phone last night and he was massively upset. It was his dream to get to the Olympics. He was number two in the world. His whole life is in turmoil."

Throughout the town, there was disappointment at the news of the test result.

"People are very disappointed. We know that Michael had put his heart and soul into boxing," said hairstylist Leon McDonald, who knows the boxer.

He continued: "People now have their fingers crossed in the hope that a second test will come back clear. Michael has put in so much time and effort. Everyone feels bad for Pat Ryan, who has trained numerous champions.

"Michael has a great following in Portlaoise. All the young lads look up to him. Hopefully, there's a simple explanation."

Local barber Eugene Deegan said: "It's a very sad day. I've often cut Michael's hair and his father's hair and he is a good chap who has done a lot of good for the young people in Portlaoise.

"I don't know if he can bounce back from this. Everyone is upset for him and his family.

"The town was really looking forward to it. I had flags ready to put up. It was the same excitement as the (football) Euros."

Richard O'Brien said that the boxer had been expected to come home with an Olympic medal. "He's done so much for the town. I hope the people stand by him," he said.

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

Read more: Vincent Hogan: How the chaos and confusion unfolded in the Ireland camp in Rio

Alexandra Skalska (19), who boxed at the local club as a young girl, said she was "really surprised".

"I'm hoping it may prove to be something like antibiotics or something that caused the failed test," she said.

Local woman Mary Byrne said: "He should be a local hero but this is a huge let down."

Brian Smith said: "I thought he was going to win. It looks like it could be his own fault."

Irish Independent

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