OCI’s move against Pat Hickey was the right thing to do

Analysis: Irish Olympic council could only take one route on the IOC ethics inquiry

It was evident from the two days that covered the Olympic Council of Ireland's engagement with an Oireachtas committee last week that the OCI board meeting on Wednesday night would change Pat Hickey's relationship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) forever.

Although Hickey was entitled to attend as an ex-officio, the OCI did not want him at any of their board meetings in the future. Nor did Minister for Sport Shane Ross, and nor did several of the TDs who listened to current OCI president Sarah Keane's sometimes spellbinding account of what represented good governance in the past.

The legacy of that governance meant no funds from the State for the OCI. The organisation was also tied into contracts with a ticket company the IOC don’t want until 2026, the deal struck by Hickey with no reference to his own board.

Time and again, the IOC ethics commission arose in and around the committee chamber and in the corridors of Leinster House, along with the issue of Mr Justice Carroll Moran report being passed to the IOC.

With a board meeting taking place this week, the choreography seemed clear.

The OCI had Hickey in its sights and as it knew the IOC was already conducting an investigation (the IOC had already informed it), there was only one route Ms Keane and her board could take. That was to vote to trigger their official assistance to that investigation by the IOC ethics commission. It was the right thing to do.

Yet while the Irish process to hand over information to the IOC began on Wednesday night, it could take months or years before there is a conclusion.

Independent

The IOC commission is independent in its function and is made up of nine members, one of whom is Irish diplomat Patricia O’Brien.

Ms O’Brien was appointed Ambassador to France last March and previously was a permanent representative to the United Nations and other international organisations at Geneva.

She was elected to the commission at the 128th IOC session in 2015. She is one of the commission’s non-IOC members and her term is due to last until the IOC session in 2019.

The IOC was contacted in Lausanne this week by phone and email to see if the entire membership of the commission heard cases, and if there was a time frame for the investigation to be completed. The reply came back: “The work of the ethics commission is confidential until its decisions are made public. The commission does not comment while procedures are ongoing I am afraid. Thanks for your understanding.”

Ethics commission hearings in the past have taken varying lengths of time. The case of Fifa vice-president Issa Hayatou took 10 months between his referral to the commission and a published decision.

That of Rene Fasel, International Ice Hockey Federation president, took seven months between referral to the ethics body and a published decision, while the case of Korean IOC member Moon Dae-sung began in 2012 and finished only in June this year with a published decision.

His case, however, was complicated by an ongoing engagement with the South Korean supreme court.

All the OCI can do now is furnish the IOC with whatever it asks for, principally Mr Justice Moran’s report.

“We expect that this process may take some time to reach a conclusion. Nonetheless the board tonight unanimously agreed that it would not accept the return of the former president to the OCI board,” said the OCI statement.

The scenario of a return now seems further away than ever.