herald

Monday 26 September 2016

'Never, ever in Irish boxing has this happened before' - supporters left shocked and disappointed by result

Michael O’Reilly, who is at the centre of doping allegations. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Michael O’Reilly, who is at the centre of doping allegations. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Boxing commentator Mick Dowling. Photo: Ryan Byrne

The close-knit Irish boxing community is reeling after news that Michael O'Reilly tested positive for a banned substance as the Olympic Games in Rio which kicks off today.

The boxing world - on both a local and national level - was stunned following the result of O'Reilly's drug test, with the Irish boxing team widely touted as our best hope of medals at this year's Games.

Conor Wallace, the boxer who lost out to O'Reilly for a place on the Irish Olympic team, expressed his shock at hearing the news.

"I was terribly surprised to be hearing it," he said, adding that he got on with the boxer despite his defeat.

The Newry boxer said the news made him especially disappointed to be missing out on a chance of competing in Brazil this year. He also expressed his worry that he may not make it to the next Games.

Disappointment

"I'm raging to have come so close to competing in Rio," he told the Herald.

"I would have given anything to have been in the Olympic Games."

The 20-year-old added that boxers were very aware of how stringent drugs tests can be, and what is expected of them to pass.

"The one thing I do know is that we knew how strict it was," he said.

"They always gave us pamphlets about it at amateur level."

Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes, who is also in Rio, took to Twitter to express his disappointment, writing: "Irish boxing is in crisis. There's no ginger nuts for tea time tonight."

Separately, RTE boxing commentator Mick Dowling didn't pull any punches when giving his thoughts on the controversy.

"I think Michael O'Reilly should be well aware, as all the boxers are, and all of the athletes, that you are responsible for whatever you put into your mouth, and what you consume," he told RTE's Six One.

"It's very, very disappointing that this has been a positive test on a day that we should all be excited about the draw.

"We should be excited by who is going to go through. We have a fantastic team out there and we get hit with this."

Meanwhile, boxing clubs across the country are stunned and disappointed to hear about the test result.

Olive Keogh of Dublin Docklands Boxing Club said she was "very surprised" at the news.

"Never, ever in Irish boxing has this happened before," she told the Herald.

"We don't even know what [the substance] was.

"It could be a cough bottle, I know that the ingredients in some medicines like that can pose a problem.

"If you take anything, even if it's just for a headache, you have to be so careful. You will come under huge scrutiny."

She also expressed disappointment at the allegations, praising O'Reilly's previous performances in Ireland and further afield.

"He really didn't need to take anything like that," she added.

"He would be an excellent athlete."

Supporting

Meanwhile, Dominic Robinson from Wexford Boxing Club said the news had deeply shocked the close-knit Irish boxing community.

"We would know all the boxers going to Rio," he said.

"We would all be very close to the people going to the Olympics."

"None from our club are going over but we'll all be supporting them here," he said.

He added that failed drug tests in boxing were "not very common" among athletes, especially not in Ireland.

"You would traditionally hear about it with other sports, maybe with track and field," he said.

"Not with boxing though, perhaps it's because the training for boxing is more intense."

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