Marathon man walks free

An Athens court convicted a defrocked Irish priest for tackling the marathon leader during the Olympic race overnight and gave him a one-year suspended sentence.

The three-member court found Cornelius Horan, 57, guilty of violating Greek laws on disrupting a sports event outside of a stadium.

Horan attacked Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima in the final event of the Athens Games yesterday, knocking him into the crowd. De Lima was able to recover and finish, but had to settle for the bronze medal.

Horan was also fined for the attack, which he carried out wearing a green beret, a red kilt and knee-high green socks.

The court told Horan he would have to serve the prison sentence if he violated any laws in Greece for the next three years.

It could have jailed him for a maximum of five years, but apparently gave him the suspended sentence, allowing him to walk free from court, because of his questionable mental state.

Horan, who last year ran onto the track during the British Grand Prix, apologised to the court for his actions and said he hoped to be forgiven for his act on Judgment Day.

He was expected to leave Greece for London, where he lives.

De Lima said he might have won the gold medal if Horan had not grabbed him, but he held no resentment toward him.

"But this means he will probably do this again and get killed, as in Formula One, or kill someone," de Lima said.

Roberto Gesta de Melo, head of the Brazilian Athletic Federation, said he had hoped for a stiffer penalty.

"Crazy man has done something like this before. He could do it again."

Horan has been barred from practising as a priest for the past decade. He once published a book called A Glorious New World Very Soon To Come that predicted the world would soon end.

When he attacked de Lima, Horan had a piece of paper attached to his back bearing the message: "The Grand Prix Priest Israel Fulfillment of Prophecy Says the Bible".

He jumped from the crowd, ran across the street and grabbed the shocked runner. A policeman following the leader on a bicycle jumped off and helped free the Brazilian.

At the 2003 British Grand Prix, Horan, in a costume similar to yesterday's, ran onto the track in the middle of the race and stayed there for more than 20 seconds, forcing drivers travelling at more than 300km/h to swerve around him.

He was carrying a sign that said: "Read the Bible - the Bible is always right."

British authorities said Horan also attempted a protest on Wimbledon's Centre Court during a rain break, and had tried to disrupt cricket and rugby matches.