Irish showjumper Cian O’Connor has received a late call-up to compete at the London Games, eight years after he won gold at Athens, only to be subsequently stripped of his title.
O’Connor is back in the Olympic arena as a replacement for Denis Lynch, who was dropped by Ireland’s selectors when his horse was disqualified at this month’s Aachen Show.
Posting on his personal blog, O’Connor spoke of his delight at going to Greenwich, where the Olympic individual showjumping event gets underway on Aug. 5.
“I’m absolutely over the moon at today’s news of my Olympic selection,” he wrote on Tuesday. “I’ve just learned of my selection to compete at the London Olympics on Blue Loyd. I am delighted to have this opportunity to compete again at the Olympic Games.”
“The circumstances which led to my selection are most unfortunate for Denis Lynch, however I must now focus on the job at hand and ensure that both myself and Blue Loyd are in the best possible shape for the Games,” he said.
O’Connor won the showjumping title at Athens in 2004, but his horse, Waterford Crystal, failed a drugs test and the following year the Irish rider had his gold medal taken away from him.
The International Equestrian Federation found that Waterford Crystal had two banned substances in its system during the Games.
Then in July, 2005, the federation’s disciplinary committee, based in Zurich, Switzerland, disqualified the rider and imposed a three-month ban.
O’Connor noted at the time of the verdict that he was pleased the federation had accepted that neither he nor his vet were involved in any deliberate attempt to enhance the performance of his horse.
“We’re talking about a fraction of a millionth of a gram in each case. We in no way tried to affect the results of the Olympic Games with drugs,” he said at the time.
In a bizarre twist to the affair, the “B” sample of Waterford Crystal’s urine was mysteriously stolen when it was sent to a testing laboratory in Newmarket, England, and documents relating to the case were stolen in a burglary at the Irish Equestrian Federation headquarters.
O’Connor blamed the document theft and sample disappearance on personal enemies, who he alleged were plotting against him.
Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa who rode Baloubet du Rouet in Athens, was named the Olympic champion in O’Connor’s place.