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Pigeon champion expelled for life over cheating claims

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Media captionEamon Kelly and late racing partner Frank Lloyd discuss a race win

A pigeon racing champion has been handed a lifetime ban from the sport following allegations he cheated to win a race from France.

Eamon Kelly, 52, was accused of cheating in this year's Tarbes Grand National, a blue riband event.

He allegedly registered 14 birds for the race, but kept them at home while sending decoys to Tarbes, France.

The National Flying Club said the 52-year-old, from Didcot, admitted to senior members that he cheated.

'Sad day for pigeon racing'

In a statement the association said: "This follows the falsification of [his] race entry for Tarbes Grand National race dated 19 July 2016.

"Mr E Kelly admitted [cheating] in telephone conversations with the president, chairman and secretary of the National Flying Club after the falsification was confirmed."

Mr Kelly won the 2015 Tarbes Grand National and was also an official race controller for the National Flying Club.

Before the allegations were uncovered, he was due to receive £1,500 in prize money and a £10,000 Ford Fiesta for defending the title.

Tarbes Grand National

Image caption The race is organised by the the National Flying Club
  • The race is among the most prestigious events in the pigeon racing calendar, with as many as 4,000 birds entering
  • Entrants can take part from all over the UK and their birds must travel between 500 and 800 miles
  • Mr Kelly started pigeon racing at the age of nine and had success for many years with partner Frank Lloyd, who passed away in 2008.

Before the announcement of the decision to ban Mr Kelly, National Flying Club chairman Philip Curtis wrote on its website that "the committee is very saddened by the events that took place over the Tarbes weekend".

He added: "Such an occurrence put a huge cloud over the whole race.

"Compounded by national coverage of the event this is a very sad day for the sport of pigeon racing.

"We wish to inform members that the National Flying Club is satisfied that no other members of the organisation are involved in this occurrence."

Mr Kelly's partner told the BBC he was "distraught" after the claims surfaced last month, but has not yet commented on his expulsion.

How does pigeon racing work?

The conventional form of pigeon racing is for each keeper to race birds from the same starting - or "liberation" - point, back to their individual lofts.

The distance between these points is calculated to the nearest yard and the birds of each club or group of clubs are all released together.

Each bird wears a secretly numbered ring or an electronic ring and when that bird arrives home, either the rubber ring is removed and placed in a clock which registers the time or the electronic ring registers on a computer.

Knowing the distance of the flight and the time taken enables the club to work out the average speed and the bird with the highest average speed is declared the winner.

Source: The Royal Pigeon Racing Association

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