IOC reprimands Irish fighters for gambling in Rio

Irish Olympians Michael Conlan and Steven Donnelly gambled at Rio 2016 to pass the time because they were bored — and both fighters were issued “severe reprimands” yesterday for breaking Olympic rules.

The Belfast and Ballymena pair were yesterday sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee for placing accumulator bets on boxing matches at last month’s Games. The Irish Athletic Boxing Association said it was “very disappointed” at the boxers but said it does not plan any further action.

“The IABA is very disappointed to learn two members of the Irish boxing team have engaged in such activity during the Rio Olympic Games. We fully endorse and support today’s ruling by the International Olympic Committee. It is likely no further action will be taken by the IABA as the matter has already been dealt with by the IOC.”

Both men were initially sanctioned in Rio where they were barred from attending the Closing Ceremony for the 2016 Games. Conlan, who has signed a multiyear contract with Top Rank of Las Vegas, declined to comment on the sanctions when contacted yesterday, except to say his focus is on his pro debut at Madison Square Garden next St Patrick’s Day.

The World amateur elite champion and Top Rank will hold a press conference in Ireland before Christmas, the two-time Irish Olympian, who will relocate to Las Vegas with his family, confirmed.

It was found Donnelly, who is expected to turn pro in the near future, had placed number of cumulative bets. Two bets were wagered on his opponent, Mongolia’s Tuvshinbat Byamba, to win, but Donnelly won the fight.

Donnelly admitted at a hearing in Rio on August 15 he had signed the various documents (in relation to the Olympic gambling ban) without reading them and he had bet without intending to cheat.

Conlan, at a hearing in Rio on August 20, also admitted he had made a mistake and regretted it and that he would be willing to educate young athletes using his experience.

Conlan gambled on a number of fights, some of which were in his own weight class. He said he had signed the various documents in relation to gambling without reading them and he usually bet on sports as a kind of hobby.

The amount wagered — understood to be under £200 — was relatively low, according to the IOC who appear to have accepted that both boxers made naive errors. The Olympic Council of Ireland were also reprimanded for not fully informing athletes of the ban on gambling at the Olympics and the AIBA were advised to educate its boxers about IOC compliance. Boxing’s world governing body AIBA was also told to check its rules comply with the IOC’s and it has sufficient education programmes in place.

“Protecting the integrity of sport at the Olympic Games is a top priority for the International Olympic Committee,” the IOC said in a written statement.

It added a number of new measures were put in place for Rio 2016, including a “joint integrity intelligence unit” and a “reinforced integrity betting intelligence system”.

Conlan and Donnelly will now have to prove that they have followed the IOC’s educational programme, particularly on gambling, if they are to participate at Tokyo 2020 and are required to support education programmes run by the OCI, AIBA or the IOC.

However, with Conlan having turned pro and Donnelly about to switch codes, these sanctions are effectively moot. These reprimands cap very disappointing Games for the fighters, particularly the highly-fancied Conlan.

A bronze medallist at London 2012 and world champion in 2015, the 24-year-old bantamweight was controversially beaten in the quarter-finals by Russian Vladimir Nikitin. Conlan reacted furiously to a result that looked even stranger a day later when AIBA sent several judges and a leading official home amid widespread criticism of the scoring.

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