Sport

Michael O'Reilly awaiting his fate over drug test failure

 O'Reilly was banned from the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday night
Neil Loughran

MICHAEL O’Reilly has officially lodged an appeal against his proposed suspension due to a failed drug test, with the Portlaoise middleweight set to plead his case to an independent disciplinary panel in Dublin via Skype.

It is understood the hearing will take place before Wednesday, with O’Reilly expected to provide evidence that he hopes will allow him to pursue his Olympic dream and make his Games debut on Friday.

The European Games gold medallist is slated to meet the winner of tomorrow’s clash between Mexico’s Uziel Rodriquez or Iraq’s Waheed Karawi in the last 16, having been handed a bye in last Thursday’s draw – just moments before news of his failed drug test reached the Irish camp.

However, the longer the controversy rumbles on, the more it hampers his preparation for what would be the biggest fight of his life.

It has yet to be confirmed whether O’Reilly tested positive for a recreational drug or a performance enhancing drug, but at this stage his chances of avoiding expulsion and a probable two-year suspension remain remote.

In recent days The Irish News has attempted to make contact with O’Reilly but the Clonmel-born fighter has been keeping a low profile in Rio de Janeiro as the controversy has rumbled on.

O’Reilly was not allowed to train or stay with Irish team-mates at the Olympic Village – he has moved to a separate apartment within the village - and was forced to miss Friday’s spectacular opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium.

The president of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA), Pat Ryan – who is also O’Reilly’s coach at Portlaoise Boxing Club – has been unavailable for comment. It is understood he only travelled to Brazil yesterday.

A spokesman for IABA would only say yesterday that the association was “waiting for the completion of due process with the athlete”.

When asked about the O’Reilly situation after welterweight Steven Donnelly opened Ireland’s account with a win over Algeria’s Zohir Kadeche yesterday, Irish coach Eddie Bolger said: “It’s a great week for Irish boxing.

“We’re here to compete and that’s all we’re focused on.”

Ballymena man Donnelly, speaking after yesterday’s last 32 victory, was quick to deny the controversy had had any effect on the rest of the team’s preparations.

He said: “To be honest, it hasn’t really. Once we heard the news, we had to focus on our own game.

“I don’t really know much about that, but what we have to do is focus on our own game. The spirit in the camp’s fantastic, it hasn’t changed at all so we’re all going for gold and we’re all happy.

“It hasn’t affected us one bit.”

O’Reilly shot on to the Irish scene when he toppled London 2012 Olympian Darren O’Neill in the 2014 middleweight final, and has since added two more national titles, beating Newry’s Conor Wallace in last December’s decider.

On the international stage, he won gold at the inaugural European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan in June 2015 and marked himself out as a future star by battling to a bronze medal at the World Championships in Doha later that year.

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