Bet claims made out of vengeance -- Olympian
Allegations about O'Leary 'made for maximum negative impact'
Solicitors acting for the Irish athlete at the heart of the alleged Olympic betting scandal that has rocked Ireland's Olympic bid have rejected the complaint and said it was made 48 hours before the Games opened to cause the "maximum negative impact" on Cork sailor Peter O'Leary.
The well-known sailor who is competing in his second Olympics is the boyfriend of hurdler Derval O'Rourke.
Mr O'Leary has been accused of placing two bets backing an opponent to win an event at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 in which he directly competed.
Mr O'Leary, who qualified for the Olympics in 2011, is due to make his first appearance at the 2012 Games later today alongside his teammate David Burrows.
A series of high-level discussions took place yesterday between Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) boss Pat Hickey and members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who have reportedly demanded a "full explanation" into the affair.
It is believed the Ethics Committee of the International Olympic Committee are satisfied the complaint was taken seriously by the Irish organisation and are preparing to nominate someone to carry out a full investigation.
The IOC's code of conduct specifically outlaws the practice of betting against yourself.
An IOC spokeswoman said last night: "We have seen the media report. The IOC has looked into the matter and is in contact with the Irish Olympic Council. The case is not related to an Olympic event."
Ranked 20th in the world, Mr O'Leary was born on March 29, 1983, and has been described as "one of Ireland's most talented sailors".
He came sixth at the ISAF Youth Worlds in 2001 and won Irish Sailor of the Year in 2007. He comes from a famous Cork sailing bloodline, being the grandson of Archie O'Leary, who is the founder of the well-known O'Leary Insurance brokerage in Cork.
Mr Hickey confirmed they had received an allegation concerning one of the competitors; however, insiders have said it was decided to "park" the issue until after the Games concluded.
The email was sent to the OCI on July 21, from a named email address. The OCI took legal advice and were told Mr O'Leary had to be informed of the allegations. His solicitors replied that the allegations had been made out of "vengeance and spite" and said the allegations were made to cause Mr O'Leary "maximum negative impact" just 48 hours before he was due to compete in the Games.
However, more detailed information has been supplied alleging that the athlete placed two separate bets, both backing a specific opponent to claim victory in a competition he himself was entered in.
It is claimed that the bets, at a price of 12/1, were placed the day before their competition started and both were successful, netting €3,600. The money was collected from Boylesports, Castle Street, Cork on August 27, 2008, according to the allegations.
There was anger in government circles that no one was made aware of the allegations so close to the 2012 Games. Speaking from London yesterday, Sport Minister Leo Varadkar hoped it did not "mar" morale in the Irish team.
"I only learnt about it today from the Irish Independent and don't know the details. I understand it's being investigated and I really hope it does not mar team morale at the start of what should be a great Olympics."
Junior Sport Minister Michael Ring said yesterday he too was in the dark, but it was a matter for the OCI.
"I hope this is put to bed quickly and does not spoil the Olympics," he said. This incident comes days after Mr Hickey became only the second Irishman to become a member of the executive committee of the IOC.
While making no comment yesterday, Mr Hickey told the Irish Independent on Friday night that the council sought legal advice on the matter and were told that they had a duty "under the rules of natural justice" to inform the competitor of the allegation being made.
It received a detailed letter from Mr O'Leary's solicitor last Thursday and a full investigation is under way.
Mr O'Leary's lawyers, Ronan Daly Jermyn, said the emergence of the allegations 48 hours before the games were designed to cause the "maximum negative impact possible".
The email sent to the OCI alleges that Mr O'Leary made a credit card deposit of €300 into his personal betting account. It claimed that three minutes later, he placed a bet of €41 at 12/1, backing an opponent to win gold.
Roughly 20 minutes later a second bet of €259 backing the same opponent at the same price was allegedly made. The following day, Mr O'Leary went into competition against that opponent.
Records show that the first bet brought a winning return of €533 and the second one €3,367.
An OCI spokesman said the council has informed the athlete, whom it will not name, about an anonymous allegation that two bets were made in favour of an opponent in an unspecified sport prior to the Olympics. The spokesman said it was now a legal issue and that the council would not make any further comment.