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Monday 26 September 2016

'I'm humbled by the support of Irish people', says Hickey

Pat Hickey says he will fight ticket-touting charges
Pat Hickey says he will fight ticket-touting charges

Under-pressure Olympic Council president Pat Hickey last night said he will "vigorously" defend the ticket-touting charges laid against him by Brazilian police.

The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) boss broke his silence in Rio claiming that he is innocent.

Mr Hickey (71) also said he was humbled by the support of "thousands in Ireland".

Mr Hickey, who temporarily stood down as president of the organisation following his arrest on August 17, learned late on Friday that charges against him had been accepted by a judge in Rio.

Mr Hickey last night said he is "completely innocent" and insisted he was not under house arrest.

"I have just received formal notification from the Brazilian authorities of the charges laid against me," Mr Hickey said in the statement.

"I intend to face all the charges and to fight each and every one of them.

"I am completely innocent of all such charges and I will also vigorously defend my good name and character that I have spent my lifetime building through voluntary service for numerous sporting bodies."

Mr Hickey said that he believes in the Brazilian judicial system and that he was "confident" he will be "discharged of all accusations".

"This has been a life-changing experience for me, my wife, my four children and my five grandchildren and my priority is to recover my health and see my family as soon as possible," he said.

"I have been very heartened and humbled by the outpouring of support, letters, texts and emails from the thousands of people in Ireland and from the international sporting world."

Meanwhile, acting OCI president Willie O'Brien said that Mr Hickey will not resume his role as chief of the organisation if he returns before any trial.

"Mr Hickey stepped aside as President when initially arrested and for the period of his legal challenge to accusations made against him by the Brazilian Authorities," said Mr O'Brien.

"The Olympic Council of Ireland has received no further notice of any change to that position."

Role

However, the acting OCI president would not rule out the possibility that Mr Hickey may return to his role as president.

When asked further if the OCI board would welcome Mr Hickey back into his role as president while facing charges, Mr O'Brien replied: "That's a matter that is not before the Executive board."

"We must offer Mr Hickey the opportunity to address his situation and allow him the presumption of innocence until proven guilty," he said.

Mr O'Brien's comments come after the head of Basketball Ireland last week demanded to know if the acting president supported Mr Hickey.

Basketball chief Bernard J O'Byrne wrote to Mr O'Brien asking which person the board would support in the event of an election for president.

"We are being put in a very vulnerable position due to the fact that we have no information on which we can base reasonable and honest replies to the above questions," wrote the former FAI CEO.

"We believe that it is now imperative that a meeting of all members of the OCI be called to receive relevant information from the officers and executive board. I hope that, led by yourself, the executive of the OCI will accede to this request as a matter of urgency."

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