A REIGNING champ of pigeon racing has been banned for life from the sport after allegedly cheating at a major event in France.

Eamon Kelly, 52, from Steventon, registered the winning time at the Tarbes Grand National in July.

It emerged that Mr Kelly had registered 14 birds from his loft, but had then reportedly kept them at home while sending decoys to France.

A statement by the National Flying Club said: "The committee of the National Flying Club have in accordance with RPRA rule 70 expelled Mr E. Kelly from the association for life.

"This follows the falsification of their race entry for Tarbes Grand National race dated 19th July 2016 to which Mr. E. Kelly admitted in telephone conversations with the President, Chairman and Secretary of the National Flying Club after the falsification was confirmed by members who marked the partnerships pigeons, stating the time at which they marked the birds, did not correspond with the time on the Bricon basketing printout."

Just after the allegations came to light last month Mr Kelly said he "sincerely apologised" for his actions, adding: "A sport that I love so much, that has given me untold pleasure and above all friendship I have thrown all away."