Malicious campaign ‘cost sailor a medal’

The Irish Sailing Association believe a “malicious campaign” against sailor Peter O’Leary cost the country a medal at the Olympic Games.

Mr O’Leary was at the centre of a media storm before his first race at the London Olympics amid revelations he had bet on a race at the Beijing Olympics four years earlier.

This week the International Olympic Committee’s Ethics Commission found the Cork sailor was guilty of placing two bets in 2008, contrary to the Code of Ethics, but that his performance could not have had any impact on the result of the Keelboat competition in question. It also noted that awareness of this problem among athletes and sports organisations was not as high as in 2012 and that Mr O’Leary should not face any sanctions other than a warning.

The Irish Sailing Association last night issued a statement on the matter expressing concern at a number of “unanswered questions” and the manner in which the controversy was reported.

James O’Callaghan, ISA Olympic performance director, said: “The facts found present a vastly different picture than the story portrayed on the eve of O’Leary’s opening race of the London Olympics with team-mate David Burrows at Weymouth. While the report shows O’Leary made a mistake which he freely admitted, it is clear that the rule concerned was a recent development unknown to many athletes, not just O’Leary.

“The effect of this malicious campaign achieved someone’s aim. The IOC report did not refer to the manner in which this matter was brought into the public arena, except to state that it arose from an anonymous email.

“The motive and timing of this matter, some four years after it occurred, has left many unanswered questions. The ISA regrets that these questions have never been properly probed prior to, during, or since, this summer’s Olympics.”

The pair finished 10th overall, and Mr O’Callaghan is convinced the Star sailors could have made the podium were it not for the controversy. “Yes it did [cost them a medal],” he said.

“Look at their performance coming into the Games and look at what they got during the Games. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what the difference was. We feel the story was blown out of all proportion.”

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