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Sunday 25 September 2016

'I'm sorry for tickets scandal, but it's not our fault' - Hickey

Olympic Council of Ireland President Pat Hickey
Olympic Council of Ireland President Pat Hickey

Olympic Council of Ireland president Pat Hickey has insisted that his organisation will emerge from an investigation into alleged ticket touting at Rio with a "clean bill of health".

Speaking for the first time since the scandal emerged, Mr Hickey said he was "sorry" for any embarrassment to Ireland over the alleged touting issue, but said no one in his organisation had been involved in any improper behaviour.

A Dubliner, Kevin James Mallon, is due to appear in court in Brazil in connection with the alleged sale of tickets that were allocated to the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI).

Embarrassment

Last night, however, Mr Hickey (71) said the OCI was continuing to gather all relevant information connected to the allegations.

"What I can tell you very clearly is that there is no impropriety whatsoever from anyone in the OCI or myself in the dealing of tickets. I want to reassure you on that 100pc," he told RTE.

"I would, of course, be very sorry for any embarrassment caused to Ireland in this issue.

"I intend to rectify it as soon as I can."

The OCI said yesterday that it had contacted the Rio 2016 Organising Committee in a bid to obtain all evidence and relevant information.

The arrested man, Mr Mallon, is an executive with THG - a sports hospitality company.

last night the company moved to fully reject any allegations of wrongdoing.

THG Sports said there was "no evidence" to support the claims.

The company added that both THG Sports and Mr Mallon were co-operating with the authorities in Brazil.

THG added that it was seeking Mr Mallon's release and urgently calling for a "review of the case".

Two of the Dail's watchdogs - the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Sports Committee - are jostling to haul in the OCI and Mr Hickey for questioning.

Meanwhile, it is not yet known when disgraced boxer Michael O'Reilly will arrive home in Ireland.

But sporting chiefs have said Ireland's doping procedures will be "vigorously defended" by sports chiefs, despite the boxer failing a drugs test before he flew to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics.

O'Reilly's result did not emerge until he was already in Rio, and Sports Minister Shane Ross has said questions about the timing would need to be answered.

Mr Ross said he was concerned that the matter was not brought to O'Reilly's attention before he travelled to Brazil.

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

However, well-placed sources last night rejected any suggestion that the procedures carried out by Sport Ireland needed to be more robust.

O'Reilly, who boxes out of Portlaoise, was tested in early July before he flew to Rio.

The sources said that as soon as the result showed he had tested positive for a banned substance, his team was informed "immediately".

"The suggestion from the minister that Sports Ireland in some way acted slowly is utterly false.

"The procedures are completely robust," one source said.

substance

O'Reilly, who faces the prospect of being banned from the sport for at least two years for doping, is due to appear before a disciplinary hearing after the Games.

Members of his team initially insisted he would appeal the ban, but the 23-year-old this week admitted taking a banned substance.

He stressed that he was 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 test before issuing his statement. His first fight was due to take place today.

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