Tuesday 20 February 2018

Kenny laments 'syringes falling out of suitcases' in Tour scandal

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Steve Humphreys
Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Steve Humphreys

Ryan Nugent

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described drug issues at the Tour de France in Ireland as "syringes falling out of suitcases" during a speech launching Dublin as a host city for Euro 2020.

Mr Kenny played a part in bringing the historic cycling race to Dublin while he was tourism minister between 1994 and 1997.

Speaking at the launch of the Euro 2020 logo, he made reference to the 1998 Tour but said he had no idea that it would be remembered for all of the wrong reasons.

A number of riders were found to be using banned substances during the race.

"When I was back in tourism in the mid-90s, we had visits from Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche to bring the Tour de France; we made arrangements for that," Mr Kenny said.

"I didn't know and nobody else knew that when they came in 1998, the 200th anniversary of the French landing in Killala, it turned out not to be the best Tour de France for reasons that you will recall, syringes falling out of suitcases and so on," he added.

The Taoiseach referred to a number of major international sporting events held in Ireland over the past 20 years, including the Heineken Cup and the Ryder Cup.

Earlier this year, the Fine Gael leader was heavily criticised for an interview with Sky Sports during the Irish Open, when he mistakenly said the Ryder Cup was a tournament involving teams from the USA and Great Britain. The tournament is a clash between the USA and Europe.

During his speech at the CHQ Building in Dublin, Mr Kenny commended Irish football fans and said he expected supporters from across Europe to receive a "hell of a welcome" when they arrived for the four matches at the Aviva Stadium in 2020. "In true appreciation of the fans of the Irish team, others now have the opportunity to come to where all of those fans are from," he said.

"Haven't we all witnessed the impeccable behaviour, reputation, credibility and genuineness of Irish fans in different locations?

"So when they come here to Ireland, to Dublin, I know that they will get a really wonderful opportunity to assess the personality of the Irish - this sports-mad country."

Meanwhile, FAI boss John Delaney did not want to comment on his departure from the board of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI).

He said: "I made it very clear about the OCI. I've said everything I've got to say publicly about it and we'll leave it at the moment because there are a lot of legal matters as you know, so I want to leave it at that."

Sports Minister Shane Ross also addressed the crowd, saying Euro 2020 would have "many tourism benefits for the country".

"Sports tourism is important to Ireland. It raises revenue and boosts the economy, and it also helps create jobs," he said.

Irish Independent

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