O'Connor to be considered for 2008 Games, says EFI

 

Showjumper Cian O'Connor, stripped of an Olympic gold medal over a horse doping scandal, will be considered for the Irish team to travel to the Beijing Games in 2008, it emerged this evening.

Avril Doyle, president of the Equestrian Federation of Ireland, said the rider was a talented horseman and deserved to be on a shortlist of potential Olympians.

O'Connor was stripped of his gold medal from Athens and given a three-month ban after an International Equestrian Federation judicial committee ruled his horse had tested positive for two human sedative drugs.

"At the end of the day no matter what Cian decides to do he is still an extremely talented young man and there's 10 or 12 more Cian 's out there," she said.

"If we could get the horses and sponsors then we could be bringing medals back from Beijing."

Ms Doyle MEP, said the 25-year-old Co Kildare rider would be considered for the Irish team once the ban had been served or an appeal heard.

"If Cian has to, if he decides not to appeal, if he decides to accept the three-month ban, yes, of course on the day we will choose the best riders with the best horses that are available to us for any team both at home and abroad," she said.

"Once the three months are up if that is the route that Cian decides to go we will be very pleased to have him to choose from."

Urine samples from O'Connnor's horse, Waterford Crystal, were found to have traces of fluphenazine and zuclopenthixol after the Athens success last summer - Ireland's only gold medal from the Games.

Both drugs have been used to treat severe cases of schizophrenia in humans.

But the FEI committee did not find that the horse had been deliberately drugged to enhance performance. After the hearing O'Connor said he felt vindicated.

"I am delighted that the Judicial Committee has accepted and affirmed that I was not involved in any deliberate attempt to affect the performance of my horse

Waterford Crystal - as I have always maintained," O'Connor said.

The Kildare rider was asked to pay 5,000 Swiss francs towards the cost of the 12 hour hearing.

Ms Doyle described the outcome as a tragic day for sport.

"There's no doubt the outcome yesterday after the hearing in front of a judicial committee in Zurich is a tragedy in the context of sporting history," she said.

"Lets not lose the run of ourselves here, it was no surprise to those of us who understand the rules of the FEI, they have zero tolerance to the presence of any unauthorised substance, medicine or otherwise, in competition.

"They also stated quite clearly that as far as the Federation judicial committee was concerned that neither Cian nor his vet were deliberately trying to enhance performance by the use of this substance, that was their opinion.

"That for Cian in itself must give him some comfort."

O'Connor has 30 days from receiving written notification of the hearing to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.