Tuesday 20 March 2018

Sport Ireland defends its testing procedures after Ross's O'Reilly remark

Sports Minister Shane Ross. Pic Tom Burke
Sports Minister Shane Ross. Pic Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The country's national sports agency is to vigorously defend its doping test procedures after Sports Minister Shane Ross questioned why boxer Michael O'Reilly had been allowed to travel to Rio de Janeiro despite failing a drugs test.

Mr Ross said he was concerned that the positive test result had not been brought to the attention of the athlete and his team before he travelled to the Olympic Games.

Boxer Michael O'Reilly. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images for BEGOC
Boxer Michael O'Reilly. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images for BEGOC

"That's something that will have to be answered for," the Independent Alliance TD told reporters on Wednesday.

The remark clearly raises questions over the doping test procedures used by Sport Ireland, the national agency.

Last night, well-placed sources revealed that O'Reilly was tested in early July, before he flew to Rio. The sources said that as soon as the result showed a positive, his team was informed "immediately".

"The suggestion from the minister that Sports Ireland in some way acted slowly or whatever is utterly false. The procedures are completely robust," one source said.

O'Reilly, who now faces the prospect of a ban from the sport for at least two years, is due to appear before a disciplinary hearing after the games.

Read more: Former Irish boxing coach Billy Walsh 'shocked and upset' by Michael O'Reilly's failed drugs test

Read more: Donnelly grabs much needed win for Irish boxing as he moves into welterweight quarter-finals

Although members of his team had initially insisted that he would appeal the ban, the 23-year-old later released a statement in which he admitted taking a banned substance.

O'Reilly stressed that he had been given a "supplement by someone unrelated to his team or association".

It is not known if the middleweight had seen the results of his 'B' sample before issuing the statement, but he accepted that he would not be stepping into the ring in Rio. His first fight had been scheduled to take place today.

O'Reilly has left the Olympic village in Rio but there is still confusion over when he will arrive back in Ireland.

Mr Ross this week said O'Reilly's suspension was "embarrassing" for Ireland but refused to say whether the boxer should face tough sanctions.


He said: "There is a process going on. What is happening, I think, is he is coming back and going through a process carried out by Sports Ireland and others and we are going to watch that and monitor it very closely."

The athlete had been tipped by many to win a medal but his last-16 opponent will now get a bye into the quarter-finals.

O'Reilly was notified of the result of the urine sample - which had been taken prior to his departure for Rio - on the eve of last week's opening ceremony.

In a statement, O'Reilly offered a "sincere apology" to his fellow boxers, team-mates, the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, Sport Ireland, the Olympic Council of Ireland and to all those who have supported him.

Last night, the chairman of the Oireachtas Sports Committee, Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin, said he wanted his committee to examine the issue of doping in sport.

He said: "The performances of Irish athletes at the Olympics have already brought great pride to everyone in Ireland.

"After the games and the Paralympic Games conclude, I would like to see the Irish Sports Council and the Olympic Council of Ireland, and other relevant parties, come before the Sports Committee to review performances at the 2016 Olympics."

He added: An excellent review of the London Games was carried out under the previous chairman, John O'Mahony, and I think there would be real merit in repeating this exercise."

Irish Independent

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