There’s generally no upside to losing a sports bet. A rare exception: Irish boxer Steve Donnelly, who bet on himself to lose at the Olympics so he’d get a few dollars in case he didn’t win his fight.
Donnelly placed eight cumulative bets, including two on his opponent, Tuvshinbat Byamba of Mongolia, to win their first-round welterweight bout, the IOC said.
Donnelly, who won the fight, told the IOC hearing that he bet against himself not to fix the bout but because it would have offered "some compensation" had he lost.
I’ve heard of friends placing bets against their favorite sports team — either your beloved team wins, or you get a payday. But Donnelly hedged on his own Olympic sporting event, making sure he’d either achieve glory for Ireland or achieve money for his wallet. He was basically taking out an insurance policy on his Olympic performance.
But Donnelly should be happy that he won his fight and lost the money. If he’d lost, it might have given the appearance that he’d thrown the match for a few dollars. That’s match-fixing, and that’s illegal pretty much everywhere.
But he won, and also lost ALL SEVEN OTHER BETS he placed during the Olympics, averting any suspicion that he was doing anything shady. He was so bad at gambling that it pretty much guaranteed he wouldn’t get into trouble.
You’d think this would be cause for some sort of huge ruckus, or Donnelly’s lifetime eviction from boxing. Here in America, we’re pretty prude about sports gambling, restricting it to places with casinos and racetracks. Major League Baseball suspended Pete Rose for life for betting on his team to win.
But Donnelly, along with two other boxers caught gambling in Rio, only earned censures. They’ll be asked to partake in an “education program” if they want to fight in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
This isn’t the first international whoopsidaisie for either Donnelly, who was thrown out of the 2010 Commonwealth Games for a drinking bender. Another one of the gamblers was Michael Conlan, who you may remember from the time he threw as many middle fingers and curses as he could at judges after a controversial ruling in Rio.