Olympics 2016

Michael O'Reilly set to appeal positive drug test

Michael O'Reilly
Michael O'Reilly

Ireland's Olympic team is in crisis after one of its boxing stars tested positive for a banned substance.

Michael O'Reilly (23), who is from Clonmel in Tipperary, was dramatically suspended from the Olympic Games last night after test results allegedly found a banned substance in his system.

Sports bosses and Government figures are engaged in crisis talks in a bid to contain what is a major humiliation for Ireland on the eve of the Rio Games.

And the news of the athlete's suspension is particularly embarrassing for Sports Minister Shane Ross, who this week released a press statement in which he said that he hopes Irish athletes will perform in a "doping-free environment".

Sources have confirmed that O'Reilly - who was due to compete in the middleweight event - was tested prior to his departure for Rio.

The test was carried out by an official working for Dr Una May, who is head of anti-doping at the Irish Sports Council.

Dr May contacted John Treacy, chief executive of the Irish Sports Council and informed him that O'Reilly had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

Mr Treacy yesterday phoned the chairman of Sport Ireland, Kieran Mulvey, who sources say was "taken aback" by the news of O'Reilly's test result.

Mr Treacy also phoned Mr Ross, who is currently holidaying in France, before his scheduled trip to Rio for the opening ceremony.

When contacted by the Irish Independent, Mr Treacy declined to comment.

Sources confirmed last night that the boxer, who fights out of Portlaoise Boxing Club, is likely to appeal and have the 'B' sample tested.

There was some relief the test was not taken while O'Reilly was in Brazil - as this would have raised questions about access to performance-enhancing substances.

A source said the positive test vindicates the testing procedure in Ireland. "It shows the system works," the source said.

Sport Ireland has a mobile phone app for athletes and their coaches that lists banned substances. Any ingredient in food, drink or supplements can be checked.

"There is no room for error," a source said.

The boxing world was last night in shock following the news. Olympic gold medallist Michael Carruth said he is in "total disbelief".

"Whatever punch I've ever been hit with in my life, it was nothing like today. "We've never seen it coming, none of us. It's not in our sport really," he told the Irish Independent.

"When have you ever heard of an Irish boxer failing a drugs test. For me, absolute shock and a big amount of disappointment. It's surreal, you could never fathom that.

"They're stringently tested and they know the dos and dont's...If they feel anything they are putting in is untoward they can ask advice."

He added: "If he didn't know what he was putting in, then he should have got it checked out and if he did we have zero tolerance for people who take drugs.

"We want clean athletes and this is our sport and for this to happen it's an absolute shock."

Boxer Conor Wallace (20), who was defeated by O'Reilly in the qualifiers for the Olympic team, also expressed his shock.

"I was terribly surprised to be hearing it. I like Michael O'Reilly as a person. I don't want to say anything bad about him," Newry native Wallace said. "I'm raging to have come so close to competing in Rio. I would have given anything to have been in the Olympic Games."

In a statement, the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) said it was notified by the Irish Sports Council of an alleged violation of the Irish anti-doping rules: "In following the strict procedures applying to an adverse analytical finding, the athlete in question has been informed and is provisionally suspended. The boxer can request to have a 'B' sample tested but cannot participate in any competition or activity prior to the completion of an investigation under Article 8 of the Irish anti-doping rules," the statement read.

"The Irish Athletic Boxing Association has always maintained a zero tolerance approach to doping and Irish boxing has been one of the most widely tested sports by the National Anti-Doping Programme over the last number of years."

Speaking to the Irish Independent in Dublin Airport before he flew to Brazil, O'Reilly said he and the team were "raring to go".

"I'm hoping to go and bring back a medal and I'm very, very confident that I will," he said.

Asked about his preparations for Rio, O'Reilly said: "Keep yourself safe, and keep the hands wrapped up".