Equestrianism: O'Connor ponders appeal against loss of gold medal

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The Independent Online

Having been stripped of his Olympic gold medal in Zurich late on Sunday evening - and with a three-month ban from showjumping in prospect - Ireland's Cian O'Connor has been left to consider the option of appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"I'm going to go away and think about it," he said. In view of the procedural errors made by the International Equestrian Federation [FEI], it is conceivable that he would get to keep his medal on appeal. But it seems doubtful that this would have much value under such circumstances.

Though he described the loss of the medal as "a huge disappointment", the 25-year-old Irishman must have realised that it was virtually a foregone conclusion after traces of two forbidden substances were found in samples taken from his mount, Waterford Crystal, after his victory in Athens.

Having always maintained his innocence (insisting that the drugs had unexpectedly remained in the horse's system after medical treatment five weeks before the Olympics), O'Connor at least has the satisfaction of feeling that he has been vindicated by the Judicial Committee of the FEI. Their statement exonerated him from any "deliberate attempt to affect the performance of the horse".

So maybe it is time to bite the bullet and accept the penalties. No doubt the FEI would be happy for him to do so, since any appeal to the Court of Arbitration would serve to highlight their own inadequacies in the bizarre events, which included the theft of the B sample of Waterford Crystal's urine from outside the Horseracing Forensic Laboratory in Newmarket.

If O'Connor does relinquish the medal - the only one obtained by Ireland in Athens - it will go to Rodrigo Pessoa, who will add it to the mementos of his 1998 world title and his three victories in the World Cup final. The Brazilian was not, however, in any mood to gloat yesterday.

"There's not much emotion to winning under these circumstances," he said. "It's very sad for Cian O'Connor and he must be having a hard time for the moment, but we all know the rules and we have to go by them. I guess that's life."

Pessoa said that he would "definitely try to win in the right way in three years' time". O'Connor, whose showjumping ambitions are undiminished, will also have his sights set on Beijing in the hopes of collecting a medal that he is allowed to keep.