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Sunday 25 September 2016

Olympic Council will pay for shamed boxer O'Reilly's return home

Boxer Michael O’Reilly. Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Boxer Michael O’Reilly. Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile

The Olympic Council of Ireland will pay for shamed boxer Michael O'Reilly's flights back to Ireland.

Despite the positive drugs test which has seen the 23-year-old middleweight expelled from the Rio games and facing a ban from his sport, the boxer will not have to repay any of the costs relating to his trip.

Last night the Herald learned that O'Reilly has remained in Rio with his trainer Pat Ryan since he admitted he "unintentionally" took a supplement that "may" have contained a banned substance.

It is understood he is due to return to Ireland in the coming days and may be back home as early as today.

Banned

The boxer has been segregated from the Irish team since it emerged last week an anti-doping test conducted before he left for the Olympics was positive for a banned substance.

O'Reilly's camp initially said he would contest the findings and sources close to him were adamant in recent days that he was clean. However, on Tuesday he was forced to admit the test was correct.

"Mr O'Reilly was given this supplement by someone unrelated to his team or association," a statement said.

An Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) spokesman last night confirmed it had been paying for O'Reilly's accommodation in Rio and was continuing to do so, owing to a "duty of care" to the fighter.

"He remained in the Olympic Village [following the positive test result], under our duty of care," the council said. It declined to specify how much his accommodation cost.

"The OCI does not discuss administrative information publicly.

"The OCI paid for Michael's travel home as at all times we had a duty of care to him and treated him in a professional manner," the spokesman said.

Asked if he would have to repay the costs, the OCI said he would not.

"Michael O'Reilly will not have to repay these costs, the OCI will pay these costs," the council said.

Joe Hennigan, manager of the Irish boxing team for the games, confirmed last night that O'Reilly was still in Rio.

"He's with his manager now Pat [Ryan], you need to talk to him," Mr Hennigan said.

"That's the way it goes," Mr Hennigan said, when asked if O'Reilly was devastated. Calls to Mr Ryan went unreturned.

O'Reilly faces a two-year ban after he was expelled from the Rio games.

It's not known whether he knew the result of the B sample before he made his first public comment on the controversy.

But the failed drugs test wasn't the first time he has been at the centre of to controversy.

He was sent home from a tournament in Turkey earlier this year and fined a reported €5,000 - later waived - for an unspecified breach of discipline.

In 2011 he required the intervention of a High Court judge to clear him to box in the European Youth Championships in Dublin after he was dropped from the Irish team for a breach of discipline.

Apology

In his statement, O'Reilly offered a "sincere apology" to his fellow boxers, team-mates, the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, Sport Ireland, the Olympic Council of Ireland and to all those who have supported him.

"Mr O'Reilly received notification on 4 August 2016 that an adverse finding had been made against him. The adverse finding arises out of a matter which was not deliberate or intentional," it said.

The Irish Amateur Boxing Association also released a statement in which it said it was disappointed O'Reilly may have taken a supplement without consulting its high-performance team.

"Educating athletes of the risks proposed by supplements is provided to all our boxers as part of the High Performance Programme," the IABA said.

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