Wednesday 25 April 2018

Michael O'Reilly to insist he's clean via Skype link

AGAINST THE ROPES: Boxer Michael O’Reilly. Pic: Michael O'Reilly/Twitter
AGAINST THE ROPES: Boxer Michael O’Reilly. Pic: Michael O'Reilly/Twitter

Wayne O'Connor and Sean McGoldrick

Fighter Michael O'Reilly will provide documentary evidence which, sources close to the boxer insist, will exonerate him as he gives sworn testimony via video link from Rio to investigators in the next 48 hours.

As he battles to save his Olympic dream following an alleged doping violation, the Clonmel-born boxer was talking to his lawyers last night, preparing for the fight of his life. The hearing will take place in Dublin, with his lawyers presenting his case while the boxer will give evidence via Skype.

The middleweight, who fights out of Portlaoise, is said to believe he has "documentary evidence" that could clear him to fight ahead of his scheduled first bout on Friday.

A source last night confirmed a hearing is expected to take place in the next "two to three days".

The 23-year-old boxer is said to be distraught following his positive test, but sources close to him say they are confident he will step into the ring on Friday. However, his Olympic future hangs in the balance, and he spent much of yesterday speaking with lawyers.

He is not allowed to train or stay with his Olympic teammates at the Olympic Village and is said to be growing increasingly isolated and upset.

"It is incredibly hard for him and he is finding it tough, but the most important person in this is Michael. He'll come through," said the source.

The Olympic Council of Ireland said yesterday: "There is a process that has to be gone through here, and regardless of what happens we will not be commenting whatsoever."

O'Reilly is said to be adam- ant that he wants to contest the charge, and sources claim he has "documentary evidence" that will be used to fight his appeal. However, even if he is cleared of the doping allegations, he now faces a battle against time to prepare for his first fight, with his preparation left in ruins by the positive test.

Possible grounds for an appeal range from having accidentally ingested a prohibited substance, to inadvertently consuming a contaminated supplement that had been tampered with.

A source said O'Reilly "will prove he is a clean fighter".

His coach and Irish Ama-teur Boxing Association (IABA) president Pat Ryan said last night he would not comment on the issue. "There are legal matters and an anti-doping process and procedure ongoing and elements of that must be respected. I don't want to say anything further out of respect for Michael," he said.

Read more: Michael O'Reilly has lodged formal appeal in doping scandal

Read more: O'Reilly won't get 'B' sample tested as boxer takes case straight to appeal

However, it is clear that Ireland's Games have been overshadowed by the positive test result.

Sport Ireland sources said the organisation would "move quickly" to find a resolution to the controversy and hoped to have the appeal process completed by Wednesday.

Senior figures said they "stand over" the procedures, which were undertaken before the positive sample was obtained. "We are ready to do what needs to be done and we have people on standby," the source said.

There was frustration in Sport Ireland over the delay in getting a final decision from the boxer on whether he wanted to lodge an appeal or have his 'B' sample tested.

There is also believed to be unease within Ireland's Olympic camp, and boxers are eager to have issues resolved as soon as possible. "It's creating annoyance. They just want it sorted at this stage as it's distracting from their own efforts," a source said.

O'Reilly's chances of overturning a probable two-year ban remain remote, but he has nothing to lose by lodging the appeal and fighting the case.

Irish boxing team manager Joe Hennigan confirmed that O'Reilly was still in the Olympic village, but he is no longer staying in the same apartment as the other team members.

His appeal will be heard by three members of the Irish Sport Anti-Doping disciplinary panel.

Sunday Independent

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