The crisis-hit Olympic Council of Ireland has failed to fully back Pat Hickey amid growing speculation its older and newer board members are divided over the high-profile official.
The sporting organisation would not confirm full confidence in Mr Hickey last night, in the wake of a five-hour executive committee meeting over the affair.
Responding to the Irish Examiner — as a spokesperson for John Delaney refused to comment on a linked controversy surrounding the FAI chief executive or say he would assist Brazilian police if asked — the OCI would only say Mr Hickey has been a significant figure. He will appear in court today or tomorrow and will either be charged or released on bail
Despite being asked if Mr Hickey retains the organisation’s full support, the OCI declined to comment any further. “The OCI acknowledges the major contribution that Mr Hickey has made to the Olympic movement in Ireland and abroad over the past 30 years.
“We have no further comment to make given the legal proceedings underway in Rio. Mr Hickey is entitled to natural justice and due process,” a statement read.
The new OCI position comes exactly a week after acting president Willie O’Brien told reporters outside a Rio hospital where Mr Hickey was being monitored that the organisation will “defend ourselves to the hilt” when asked the same question.
It also follows a fraught five-hour meeting of its executive committee between 9pm on Sunday night and 2am on Monday morning in which the Irish Examiner understands a number of newer board members raised questions about the current leadership.
Speaking on his way into the meeting long-standing former general secretary Dermot Sherlock said his treatment was a “total and absolute disgrace”.
However, it is understood there is disquiet among newer members, with one source saying it was “deliberate” three appointed in 2014 — Sarah Keane, Cathal Ó Catháin and Robert Norwood — are leading the OCI’s new “crisis management” group and that it is “accepted” the old OCI is “dead”.
Mr Hickey is due to appear in a Brazilian court today or tomorrow where he will be potentially charged with facilitating ticket touting, being involved in a cartel and ambush or illicit marketing — charges which carry a seven-year jail term.
His lawyers and those of fellow Irishman and THG director Kevin James Mallon — who has been in custody since being found with 781 OCI registered tickets in Rio on the opening day of the Olympic Games — say they believe both men may be released this week.
Brazilian police are also due to speak with three OCI officials — chef de mission Kevin Kilty, chief executive Stephen Martin and honorary general secretary Dermot Henihan — today after seizing their passports on Sunday in addition to an unspecific number of unsold OCI tickets.
They have also sought the passports of acting OCI president Willie O’Brien, Mr Hickey’s personal assistant Linda O’Reilly and OCI second vice president and FAI chief executive John Delaney.
All three are now in Ireland, with Mr Delaney not travelling to Brazil at any time during the games.
Meanwhile, Department of Transport and Sport officials have been in “constant contact” with Attorney General Máire Whelan to decide the terms of reference for its non-statutory inquiry announced last Friday.
Due to the Government decision to accept opposition input, it will be tomorrow at the earliest before Minister Shane Ross announces the former judge who will lead the investigation.
There is a growing belief the 12-week inquiry — which does not have powers to compel witnesses — will include previous Olympics, including London 2012.
Last night, ex-Brazilian football World Cup winner turned politician Romario confirmed the 2012 Olympics led him to alert police in his home country to a “ticket mafia” and that they “would also act during Rio 2016”.
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