Olympic chiefs probe betting scandal claims
INTERNATIONAL Olympics chiefs are now investigating the allegations of a betting scandal in the Irish squad.
It follows yesterday's statement from sources close to sailor Peter O'Leary that he had bet on a rival in a race in the Beijing Olympics -- but described it as a "naive mistake".
Mr O'Leary yesterday refused to answer questions in person about allegations of illegal betting that have cast such a cloud over the Irish team this week in the wake of revelations by the Irish Independent.
Solicitors acting on Mr O'Leary's behalf have rejected the claims, suggesting they were made "to cause the maximum negative impact" on the sailor.
The ethics watchdog of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) -- the umbrella body for the Games -- last night confirmed it was investigating the case.
It is alleged that Mr O'Leary placed two bets on an opponent he was competing directly against at the 2008 Games, both successful at 12/1.
The bets of €41 and €259 were made through his personal account with a legal bookmaker and brought a winning return of close to €4,000.
The IOC specifically introduced a rule for Beijing outlawing Olympic competitors betting against themselves in competition.
The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) issued a statement yesterday revealing that they had requested "a full disclosure of documentation from the person making the allegation so that the allegation can be investigated in a fair and proper manner".
The revelation came after Mr O'Leary and his crewman David Burrows had a successful first day in the water, leaving them second overall in the Star class.
Hooded, and eyes hidden behind sunglasses, Mr O'Leary swept through the 'mixed zone' staring at his feet, with sailing's High Performance Manager, James O'Callaghan, by his side.
When asked why Mr O'Leary would not be stopping, he said "no reason". Competitors are compelled to walk through mixed zones, but have no obligation to stop and talk to media.
Mr O'Leary and Mr Burrows are strongly fancied to win Ireland's first sailing medal since David Wilkins and James Wilkinson took silver in Moscow 32 years ago.
Some sources close to Mr O'Leary, preferring not to be named, issued a statement in support of the Corkman yesterday, describing his bets in Beijing as "a naive mistake".
Describing Mr O'Leary as "a rookie" at those Games, they "said he was not competing in the medal race so he was not in a position to influence the result".
Furthermore, the statement suggested that Olympic rules on betting changed "about a year ago" and that, at the time, Mr O'Leary was not breaking any rules.
However, to compete in Beijing, all competitors had to sign a declaration that specifically outlaws betting on events in which you are competing.
A spokesman for the OCI refused to comment on the statements by sources close to Mr O'Leary. However, the spokesman denied claims that the rules governing athletes making bets had only been changed a year ago. "They came in at Beijing and continue to this day," he said.
The OCI's code of ethics prohibits participating athletes from betting on Olympic events and anyone found to be in violation of this rule can be either temporarily or permanently excluded from the Games.
The person against whom allegations have been made has the right to details of the claims and to appear before a disciplinary commission or to submit a defence in writing.
Meanwhile, Mr O'Leary has received a total of €128,621 in grant funding from the Irish Sports Council since 2001. A spokesman for the council said Mr O'Leary was an outstanding sportsman and had received a number of high-performance grants in recent years.
However, he refused to say if current or future funding could be in doubt if Mr O'Leary was found to have breached any Olympic rules.
Vincent Hogan in Weymouth
APOLOGY – MR. ANTHONY SHANKS and DR. MAXWELL TREACY
On Monday we carried an article entitled “Olympic chiefs probe betting scandal claims”. The article concerned Irish Olympic sailor, Peter O’Leary. Certain comments were subsequently posted upon this website by users who falsely suggested that Anthony Shanks and Maxwell Treacy might have been involved in making allegations against Peter O’Leary. We wish to unreservedly apologise to Anthony Shanks and Maxwell Treacy for carrying this mis-information and we wish to disassociate ourselves from the false comments posted about them on our website.