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More questions than answers as Michael O'Reilly's fate is finally sealed after failed drugs test

By Vincent Hogan

So Michael O'Reilly got there in God's own good time, finally admitting that the adverse drug finding against his name might, after all, have had a simple provenance.

His admission of ingesting a 'supplement' that "may have contained a banned substance" finally brought clarity and, effectively, closure to a story that had been festering since news of his failed test first broke during last Thursday's boxing draw in Teatro Bradesco.

He will have been advised that the expression "not deliberate or intentional", used in yesterday's statement, would have cut little ice with the World Anti-Doping Agency. In all but the most extraordinary of circumstance, an athlete must take responsibility for any product found within their system. To Wada's enforcers, a plea of naivety amounts to little more than a soft-focus admission of guilt.

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And that is precisely how yesterday's statement on behalf of O'Reilly will now be interpreted.

Given the degree to which High Performance athletes are consistently warned about anti-doping violations - repeatedly being furnished with lists of all prohibited substances - it seems nothing less than startling that the 23-year-old Clonmel boxer would have gambled on taking an unlicensed supplement without checking its status, particularly so close to the Olympic Games.

It would still have been a simple process for O'Reilly to check the legality of the supplement in question before consuming it.

That he did not do so damns him in the eyes of the drugs police and now leads to him becoming Ireland's first athlete ever expelled from an Olympic Games and the probable follow-up punishment of a two-year ban.

It might also beg the question as to why it took five days for yesterday's statement to materialise given it includes a revelation that O'Reilly actually disclosed his consumption of the 'supplement' at the time of the test in Ireland.

The case became an acute embarrassment to the Irish in Rio, particularly the boxers upon who so much medal expectation has come to weigh at recent Olympiads. O'Reilly was separated from the rest of the team within hours of Thursday's story breaking and is expected to fly home before Friday, his scheduled fight-day.

It is, of course, not the first adverse drugs finding against an Irish competitor at the Olympics.

Three months after the Athens Games in 2004, it emerged that Cian O'Connor's gold medal winning mount, Waterford Crystal, tested positive for a banned substance, O'Connor also receiving a three-month ban. In that case, the FEI made a point of noting that he had not been guilty of any act designed to improve his horse's performance.

Prior to those Games, an Irish Track and Field athlete, Cathal Lombard, was also banned after testing positive for a banned substance bought on the internet.

The difference between other Olympic cases and O'Reilly's is that the test that uncovered the finding was done in Ireland.

Of course, Ireland's most infamous drugs case involved Michelle Smith two years after she claimed three golds and a bronze at Atlanta. Found guilty of tampering with a sample that also showed up a steroid precursor, her swimming career was effectively ended by a subsequent four-year ban. Smith's Olympic feats, however, still stand in the history books.

Belfast Telegraph


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