Friday 23 February 2018

Paddy Barnes says Irish boxers didn't snub President Higgins

Paddy Barnes. Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Paddy Barnes. Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Kevin Doyle and David Kelly

Paddy Barnes has denied that he and his colleagues in the Irish Olympic boxing team deliberately snubbed the Irish President yesterday.

None of the boxers who represented Ireland in Rio turned up at a homecoming event hosted by Michael D Higgins in Dublin.

Their absence coincided with news that two members of the boxing team are now at the centre of an International Olympic Council (IOC) investigation after allegedly being caught betting online while at the Games.

Belfast boxer Barnes, the captain of the team and an Olympic double bronze medallist, said that it was wrong to suggest they had shown disrespect to the Republic's Head of State.

But he said: "I can see how people could think the wrong thing.

"It's always an honour to meet the President; we were all invited but it was just the case that the boxers had gone back to their families, who they had been away from for five weeks."

He added: "I was for going but then something came up. I've been there a couple of times and it's always an honour."

Although Barnes and his colleagues were missing from the Aras an Uachtarain reception, President Higgins spoke about issues which would have been very familiar to the boxers.

The President spoke about "questionable decision-making by referees and judges" in a segment of his speech taken to be a reference to the decisions against boxers such as Belfast's Michael Conlan and defending Olympic champion Katie Taylor.

"These Olympic Games have also exposed some serious issues for us, both here in Ireland and among the entire Olympic family," he said.

"Issues of doping, so cruelly unfair to the clean athlete, alas never far from the Olympic story in recent years, questionable decision-making by referees and judges during the Games and the controversy around the administration of our sports all deserve serious analysis and fearless responses."

President Higgins did not specifically mention the ticket touting scandal, which has resulted in the OCI's president Pat Hickey being imprisoned in Brazil.

It has emerged, meanwhile, that Ireland's boxers signed a contract saying they would not place bets on the Games before travelling to Rio.

Every member of Team Ireland also attend workshops where they were briefed on what would be considered unacceptable behaviour while representing their country.

The IOC rules state that Olympians cannot place bets on the Games as it may "infringe" on the "course or result of the competition".

An Integrity Betting Intelligence System (IBIS) came into operation in January 2014 to allow the exchange of information between legitimate betting organisations and the IOC.

It was confirmed by the Olympic Council of Ireland over the weekend that two boxers are under investigation for allegedly placing inappropriate bets.

President of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association Pat Ryan has now said there was "absolutely" no way that the two boxers under investigation would not have known they were acting outside the regulations.

"They have all attended numerous seminars. They have been fully informed of the contract's content," he said, adding that the documents are "very explicit" in relation to gambling.

The IOC can lay down sanctions, ranging from mandatory attendance at a training seminar to fines.

Speaking on RTE's This Week programme, Mr Ryan said: "We have our own disciplinary procedure and that will be followed explicitly."

Belfast Telegraph

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