Paddy Barnes casts doubt on Olympic Zika virus drop-outs

Paddy Barnes Rio Zika virus
Double Olympic boxing medallist Paddy Barnes. Image: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Gold medal hopeful spoke at launch of new Paddy Power sponsorship

One of Ireland’s best hopes for a gold medal in Rio has queried the reason for sports stars pulling out of the upcoming Olympic Games due to concerns over the Zika virus.

Rory McIlroy and another 20 golfers have notably pulled out of this summer’s Games, citing the Zika virus as the main reason, but Barnes believes it’s more to do with the amateur status of the competition.

“Just tell the truth,” he said. “There’s no money involved for them. The Zika virus is in a lot more countries than Brazil. Are they going to withdraw from tournaments or not go on holidays to these countries too? It’s a money thing and I’d have more respect for them if they came out and told the truth.

Paddy Barnes Rio Zika virus
15 October 2015; Double Olympic boxing medallist Paddy Barnes teamed up with Electric Ireland to announce its Smarter Living sponsorship of the Irish Olympic Team for Rio 2016. The Sportsfile Studio, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

“I’ve no concerns about Zika. There’s disease all around the world and the chances of catching it in Brazil are slim to none. And I’m someone who should have the most concerns as my fiancé Mari is pregnant.”

Barnes was talking at the launch of his new sponsorship deal with bookmakers Paddy Power, following a mocked-up social media spat between the two-time Olympic bronze medallist and the Irish company. Barnes, who is heavily active on Twitter, appeared to show off new merchandise in preparation for the Olympics to raise money for his preparations.

Paddy Power then tweeted to note the similarity between their company logo font and the slogan across Barnes’ t-shirts, before Barnes took a picture of a letter from the company announcing they were pursuing copyright infringement.

He responded by saying: “What are you doing to me? Don’t need this training for Rio!”

Marketing Ploy

But soon afterwards it was all revealed to be a marketing ploy, with Barnes pictured outside a Paddy Power store with the company logo changed to PaddyBarnes. Barnes is currently 2-1 favourite with Paddy Power to win gold in his 49kg division. He spoke of how difficult it is for athletes, even at his level, to secure sponsorship which is vital to ensure they get the best preparation and travel to the Olympics.


“Personally, I’ve written to every company in the world for sponsorship, the likes of Playboy, even Donald Trump, for sponsorship, but only two firms ever got back to me.

“It’s tough for boxers to raise sponsorship. As Bernard Dunne says we’re just not white collar enough for some people. It’s a working class sport. “Irish boxers have traditionally done the business at the Olympics but we don’t get recognised as much in the commercial world as the athletes do.”

Barnes and Team Ireland departed for Rio on Tuesday, and the Belfast-born 29-year-old is delighted to be the flag-bearer at the opening ceremony, which he said he is ‘honoured’ by.

“I’m feeling good and I always expect to win and while I respect my opponents I think they’ll have to overcome my style rather than me having to overcome theirs.

“John Conlan (fellow Team Ireland boxer Michael Conlan’s father) has really helped me this year and last and he and Zaur Antia will also be in my corner in Rio. He’s a technical and tactical genius.

“I’m going to see how it goes after the Games as to whether I’ll turn pro or not. But it would be great to go out at a high at Rio.”

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