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Top Irish Karate athletes threatened with Olympic expulsion amid 24-hour deadline

Caradh O’Donovan, Shauna Mullaney, Lauren Duffy and Paul Brennan are among those who could suffer.

File pic.
File pic.

Updated Feb 15th 2019, 7:50 PM

A LETTER HAS been sent to several of Ireland’s top karate athletes threatening to bar them from Olympic qualification events.

A number of athletes and coaches, including Caradh O’Donovan, Shauna Mullaney, Lauren Duffy and Paul Brennan have been sent the letter, a copy of which has been seen by The42.

The athletes in question have been informed that they will not be allowed to compete in next month’s K1 Series Event to be held in Salzburg, Austria, unless they agree to affiliate with the Official National Amateur Karate Association of Ireland (ONAKAI).

Those addressed have been given 24 hours to accede to the demand or face expulsion from Salzburg and future events crucial to Olympic qualification.

Part of the letter reads: “As you will know, only WKF recognised NGB members can participate in EFK/WKF events, and even these must be sanctioned by the ONAKAI Executive Committee to represent Ireland.”

It is the latest development in a controversy that has been rumbling on for months now and which The42 has previously reported on.

It stems from a political row that has seen the sport split into two different groups: Karate Ireland ONAKAI, and ONAKAI, both of which claim to be the valid National Governing Body of the sport.

The latest move appears to represent a pressure tactic from ONAKAI to persuade those athletes loyal to Karate Ireland ONAKAI to switch NGBs.

The athletes under scrutiny, who are expected to be barred, reluctantly competed at last November’s World Championships in Madrid, though in some cases did so without the help of their coaches, who themselves were banned from the event as a result of their association with Karate Ireland ONAKAI.

Thursday’s development represents the first official correspondence between the athletes and ONAKAI since the Madrid tournament, when they were warned that their behaviour could impact future selection.

The athletes had previously hoped some leniency and sympathy for their plight would be applied, particularly given that those competing at the Junior Championships earlier this month were unaffected regardless of where their allegiances lay.

In addition, The42 understands that ONAKAI and Karate Ireland ONAKAI had been engaged in a mediation process recently in the hope of resolving their issues, though this latest twist suggests the saga is set to continue indefinitely.

Previously, Sport Ireland conducted an independent legal review, which concluded that ONAKAI Karate Ireland were the sport’s legitimate NGB. However, a letter from the World Karate Federation sent on 15 November gave their official recognition to ONAKAI. 

 “We can confirm you that the WKF is not at all involved in discussions with any other
karate group from Ireland, less in any matter of recognition, and that the membership of
ONAKAI to the WKF is not at all under reconsideration.”

While the WKF and ONAKAI have not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication, Sport Ireland sent this statement to The42 this evening:

“Sport Ireland engage with Karate Ireland ONAKAI in relation to the sport of Karate in Ireland.

“Sport Ireland, on learning of the dispute, offered to provide mediation and facilitation to allow for a swift resolution of the issues.  

“Sport Ireland are aware that the Executives of both Karate groups are currently undergoing independent mediation.”

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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