Rio Olympics

Michael O'Reilly banned from Olympic opening ceremony

Michael O'Reilly tested positive for a banned substance on the eve of the Olympic Games
Neil Loughran

IRISH medal hope Michael O’Reilly was not allowed to participate in last night’s opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics as the storm surrounding his failed drugs test rumbled on.

It was revealed on Thursday that the Portlaoise boxer had tested positive for a banned substance prior to departing for Brazil, and O’Reilly’s hopes of participating in his scheduled last 16 bout next Friday are fading fast.

It was reported yesterday that the European Games gold medallist had requested to have his B sample tested, although the chance of any B sample producing a different result to an A sample are understood to be extremely slim.

It has yet to be confirmed whether his A sample tested positive for a banned recreational substance or a performance enhancing drug.

O’Reilly, regarded as one of Ireland’s main medal hopes, was due to face the winner of Mexico’s Uziel Rodriquez or Iraq’s Waheed Karawi after being handed a bye in Thursday’s draw.

The president of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) Pat Ryan, who is also O’Reilly’s coach at Portlaoise Boxing Club, was unavailable for comment yesterday – as was O’Reilly himself.

After being provisionally suspended by the IABA following Thursday’s revelations, the 23-year-old was not allowed to attend last night’s opening ceremony, where Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes carried the Irish tricolour into Rio’s famous Maracana Stadium.

O’Reilly is also unable to take part in any competition until the investigation has been completed.

One man who will have cause to feel aggrieved if O’Reilly is sent home is middleweight rival Conor Wallace.

The Newry southpaw, who lost to O’Reilly in the Irish Elite final last December, was in the frame for a place at the final Olympic qualifier in Azerbaijan back in June.

Wallace looked set to be handed a box-off after O’Reilly was sent home from April’s European Olympic qualifier in Turkey for an alleged disciplinary issue. However, that fight never materialised and O’Reilly travelled to Baku and sealed his place at the Olympics.

For 20-year-old Wallace – who is currently in Las Vegas helping Dublin’s Conor McGregor prepare for his UFC 200 rematch with Nate Diaz – news of O’Reilly’s failed drugs test brought feelings of frustration.

Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, he said: “My coach and some of the other members of the Ulster Council were calling a meeting in Dublin, a central council meeting, and my understanding was that there was going to be a box-off.

“Then, the box-off was on, it was put back, it was cancelled and then it was back on – nobody really knew what was happening.

“The coaches didn’t know what was happening, my coach didn’t know what was happening, and I didn’t know what was happening.

"You had to stay ready, but there was no box-off. Both of us had to go to Azerbaijan, and it was the coach’s decision, which was kind of unfair because there were 24 people at the central council meeting and, if they couldn’t come to a decision, it was kind of unfair to put it down to one man."

On O’Reilly he added: “I know Michael is a world class operator that speaks for itself. He’s won European Games gold medal and he’s world number two, and that’s not to be laughed at, but everyone deserves a fair crack of the whip.”

Steven Donnelly and David Oliver Joyce will get the ball rolling for the Irish boxers in Brazil tomorrow (live on BBC2 and RTE2).

Donnelly is expected in the ring to face welterweight rival Zohir Kedache, from Algeria, at around 4pm Irish time.

The Ballymena banger is a 4/11 favourite to progress to the last 16 and a showdown with either Mongolian Tuvshinbat Byamba or Alberto Ignacio Palmetta from Argentina on Thursday. Donnelly beat Palmetta in the World Series of Boxing last year.

Joyce, meanwhile, is an overwhelming 18/1 favourite to get the better of Andrique Allisop from the Seychelles in their last 32 clash tomorrow night (10.30pm).

Should he progress, the St Michael’s, Athy lightweight would face the daunting task of taking on former world champion Albert Selimov on Tuesday. The Russian-born Azeri, who was handed a bye into the last 16, is 11/4 favourite to win the 60kg title.

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