Just hours before the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics, a positive sample is the last thing Team Ireland would have wanted.

It’s a huge blow to team morale and, inevitably, the boxers will bear the brunt.

The media age we live in means there is little doubt the athletes will be very aware of what’s going on.

In truth they’ll all have had an anxious day in Rio: allegations of a positive sample surfaced early on Thursday and until they knew the identity of the athlete in question, it’s only human nature they’d be concerned.

While boxing is an individual sport, so much of the build-up and preparations take place in a team atmosphere, and the distractions that would have set in on Thursday, and the negative publicity that will readily follow, will help nobody.

Since the beginning of the High Performance Unit, the reputation of the team was something that was always spoken about: never tarnish the reputation by anything you do or say, in your performance inside the ring or your behaviour out of it.

"The reputation of the team was something that was always spoken about: never tarnish the reputation by anything you do or say"

That’s what will disappoint the team bitterly as Paddy Barnes gets ready to carry the Irish flag this evening.

The challenge for the boxers will be to get their minds right as quick as possible and it’s an equally stiff task for the coaches too: they’re in the same situation, and until the B sample is tested and comes back yea or nay, they have to keep the athlete as part of the team until he is officially ruled out.

Their main goal will be to shield the rest of the boxers from the negative publicity out there, and not let negative thoughts seep into their mindset.

This is an issue for the Olympic Council of Ireland too.

An Irish athlete has had a sample come back positive; that has ramifications for everybody and needs to be handled carefully.

Indeed the sooner the athlete in question - and media reports have named Michael O'Reilly as the boxer at the centre of the claims - is ruled in our out, the better for everybody.

Following my experience in London, I hope the athletes from our other sports accept the boxers and don't judge them.

This group have been, and hopefully will still be, a source of pride and inspiration for the rest of Team Ireland's athletes over the coming weeks.

* Darren O'Neill fought for Ireland at the London Olympics in 2012, captaining the Irish boxing team at the Games.