Cian O’Connor accepts Olympic decision

  • Cian O’Connor, the Irish rider whose Athens Olympic gold medal-winning ride, Waterford Crystal, returned a positive dope test at the Games, will not appeal against the FEI’s decision to strip him of his gold medal.

    The 25-year-old could have taken his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport; instead, in accepting the FEI’s ruling at a hearing in Zurich at Easter, he will return Ireland’s first ever equestrian medal — the country’s only medal from Athens — and serve a three-month ban, starting last Monday, from international competition.

    The Equestrian Federation of Ireland (EFI) welcomed O’Connor’s announcement. EFI president Avril Doyle said that while it was a major disappointment for both the rider and Irish sport that the gold would be lost, O’Connor’s decision not to prolong the process would mean a line could be drawn under the episode.

    The EFI confirmed that O’Connor, who notched up two wins at international shows in Italy last weekend, would be considered again to ride on Irish teams after serving his ban.

    In a statement, O’Connor said: “Obviously the loss of a gold medal is a major disappointment for me personally and indeed for the people of Ireland. I’m very pleased that the FEI affirmed what was always my stated position — that I didn’t attempt to alter the performance of my horse, Waterford Crystal, before or at the Olympic Games.”

    On disqualifying O’Connor from the Olympics after last month’s hearing, the FEI judicial committee acknowledged that O’Connor was not involved in a deliberate attempt to affect the performance of the horse.

    Brazilian rider Rodrigo Pessoa now claims the gold medal, but he told Horse & Hound in a recent interview: “This medal would not mean very much. It will go in the cabinet with the others, but it will be just a statistic: the emotion is not there any more.”

    Chris Kappler (US) takes silver and Germany’s Marco Kutscher bronze. British rider Robert Smith moves up to fourth place.

    O’Connor will focus on the development of his international horses and train young riders during his ban.

    • This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (14 April, ’05)

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