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Friday 23 February 2018

Bet claims 'made to derail sailor's hopes for medal'

Ralph Riegel and Vincent Hogan

FRIENDS of Irish sailor Peter O'Leary have claimed he was the target of a blatant attempt to sabotage his Olympic medal bid.

Donal McClement, a respected Royal Cork Yacht Club (RCYC) sailor and close friend of the O'Leary family, last night said that only "a sick and twisted mind" could have released such allegations.

His comments came as Cork's sailing community rallied behind O'Leary, who shrugged off the controversy to come second in his first race at Weymouth in the UK.

But he again refused to answer questions about illegal betting allegations as he and crewman David Burrows slipped to fifth in the Olympic Star class.

The Corkman walked past media without speaking and has indicated to sailing officials that he will not be stopping for interviews while the betting topic remains live.

Mr O'Leary is alleged to have placed successful bets on an opponent to win gold in an event he himself was competing in at the Beijing Olympics. Such a practice contravenes the IOC charter and could theoretically lead to expulsion if proven.

Having been in silver medal position overnight, O'Leary and Burrows had a miserable race three yesterday, finishing 14th. But a fifth-place finish in race four places them fifth overall and still in strong medal contention.

O'Leary's solicitors, Cork-based firm Ronan Daly Jermyn, did not comment further on the controversy yesterday.

The firm had earlier said the allegations lodged with the Irish Olympic Committee were motivated by "vengeance and spite".

Meanwhile, O'Leary's childhood friend Mr McClement revealed the upset felt by family and friends.

"What kind of a person waits until just two days before the Olympics to release these kinds of claims? Only a sick and twisted mind is capable of this kind of thing," he said.

Mr McClement said he "could not disagree" that the claims may have been an attempt to sabotage O'Leary's medal bid.

"He (Peter) is one of the finest young sailors in the world, and along with (boxer) Katie Taylor, is probably our best hope of a medal at the London Games," he said

Mr O'Leary's father Anthony is in the UK to support his son -- while RCYC and Kinsale Yacht Club members have flooded the family with messages of support.

Just last month, O'Leary who is the boyfriend of fellow Cork athlete Derval O'Rourke, took time out from his Olympic preparations to support Cork Week -- the flagship regatta organised biannually by the RCYC.

He raced with his father at the Crosshaven event. His brother, Nicholas, is also a talented sailor and is expected to be in contention for a future Olympic squad.

Irish Independent

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