Team Ireland’s preparations for the Games were last night in tatters as the 23-year-old Portlaoise native was suspended having tested positive for a banned substance.
O’Reilly was tested before leaving for Rio by the Sport Ireland Anti-Doping Agency and returned “an adverse analytical finding in an A-sample”.
A tweet from O’Reilly’s account last night insisted that he will compete at the Games: “Box on the 12th in the last 16 against the winner of Mexico or Iraq...”
Sources last night said they expected a conclusion on the matter within the “next 24-48 hours” as Irish Olympic bosses are keen to minimise the fallout from the controversy.
However, there was widespread shock and anger after the story was revealed exclusively by the Irish Examiner online yesterday afternoon, as the draw for the boxing was taking place in Rio.
“This is a huge embarrassment, devastating for the team of boxers which is a really tight group,” said one Team Ireland member last night.
But senior sources, speaking to the Irish Examiner said it was understood that the breach was not because of an inadvertent error. “It is not believed to be an innocent mistake. But he will have the right to appeal this, but this is a disastrous start to the Games,” the source added.
In the draw, O’Reilly was one of five boxers given a bye in the first round but his participation in the Games hangs in the balance.
“The athlete has been provisionally suspended from competition and can take part in no sports activity, including training, in accordance with the WADA Code,” an Olympic Council of Ireland statement said.
O’Reilly will now decide whether to accept a sanction for a doping violation, to request that a B-sample be tested, or to appeal the provisional suspension.
“The athlete’s identity will remain confidential unless the sanction is accepted or the B-sample is tested and also returns an adverse analytical finding,” the OCI said despite his name emerging.
Several coaches and members of the boxing team were unaware of the news when it broke on the Irish Examiner website.
Boxer Paddy Barnes took to Twitter where he called for this newspaper to reveal the name of the boxer involved, which happened an hour later.
Team Ireland has eight boxers competing in the Olympics and boxing has been the most successful event for the Irish in recent games.
Sport Ireland said it is precluded from making any comment on any anti-doping matters because of the quasi-judicial nature of how the system is managed.
It has never commented on any matters of this nature and would not be doing so in this instance, a spokesman told the Irish Examiner.
The Irish Athletic Boxing Association confirmed the positive test sample.
“The IABA has always maintained a zero tolerance approach to doping and Irish boxing has been one of the most widely tested sports by the National Anti-Doping Programme over the last number of years,” it said in a statement.
A spokesman for Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross said he had no comment on the controversy.
Ironically, as the controversy broke, both Mr Ross and Junior Minister Patrick O’Donovan added their support for the global fight against doping in sport.
They said: “We look forward to supporting not just the athletes representing Ireland, but all of the clean athletes and competitors in Rio. We sincerely hope they will be performing in a doping-free environment.”
O’Reilly came to prominence last summer when, at the inaugural European Games in Baku, he won the gold medal.
The shock news that he had failed a dope test will be of some embarrassment to his coach, Pat Ryan, who is the current president of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association.
READ HOW THE STORY BROKE HERE:
Olympic boxer Michael O'Reilly suspended following drugs test fail
Irish boxer who failed drug test in build-up to Rio Olympics named and provisionally suspended
Ireland's preparations for Olympics in tatters as Michael O'Reilly suspended
Groups urged to back Michael O’Reilly from a backlash
Michael O’Reilly’s Olympic path has been a rocky road
Irish athlete not the first to take a hit for positive test