Wednesday 17 January 2018

Eamonn Sweeney: Apology Peter? You'll be waiting

Eamonn Sweeney

You may recall the five-day wonder which was the story of the Irish Olympic Betting Cheat.

Back in July when it emerged that a member of our Irish Olympic team had been caught betting on an opponent, there was a great fuss. People suggested that the culprit should be sent home from the Games.

The culprit turned out to be Cork sailor Peter O'Leary who was competing in the Star class with David Burrows. However, closer inspection revealed that the initial media reaction was somewhat hysterical. The bet referred to had been placed on the 2008 Olympics when O'Leary, though competing, had no hope of winning a medal and was in no position to influence the result.

So really, as I noted at the time, the whole thing was a bit of a non-story. One newspaper, oh hang it all, Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times, disgraced itself by affecting to find something dodgy in the facts that O'Leary's father had a few bob and that some people thought Peter shouldn't have been picked in 2008. What this gratuitous stuff had to do with the bet is anybody's guess but there are people who enjoy kicking someone when he's down.

The story was forgotten quickly enough and everyone moved on to fawning over Katie Taylor and revealing that Billy Walsh is from Wexford and likes the GAA. Then, last week the International Olympic Committee announced that they'd be taking no action at all against O'Leary. Said their spokesman Mark Adams: "There was no proof of any match-fixing. The athlete was unaware he could not bet on Olympic events. It is something we don't agree with and we condemn it. But we will not be taking any action."

In other words, no big deal.

Now, the Irish Sailing Association are bulling about the whole thing. Reacting to the IOC statement, their Olympic performance director James O'Callaghan fumed: "The ISA notes that the facts found present a vastly different picture than the story portrayed on the eve of O'Leary's opening race of the 2012 Olympics with team-mate David Burrows at Weymouth. The effect of this malicious campaign achieved its aim. O'Leary and Burrows finished tenth overall in Weymouth. Their form overall suggested at least fifth was attainable. They regularly placed higher than the eventual gold medallists." The ISA are right to be angry. Eventual silver medallist Robert Simpson observed at the time that Burrows and O'Leary's performance was affected because "the Irish press is hounding them pretty hard".

Logic suggests that in a sport where there is so little margin for error, the duo's Olympics were ruined by this non-story.

That Derval O'Rourke, O'Leary's girlfriend, was also dragged into it probably didn't help her bid to make the Olympic 100m hurdles final either.

Journalists are great for suggesting that people apologise if they're caught doing something wrong. Perhaps some who put the boot into Peter O'Leary might admit they got it wrong.

And perhaps this Landrace I'm coaching might break the sound barrier.

Sunday Indo Sport

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