Thursday 8 December 2016

Bernard Brogan not happy about 'intrusive' new blood testing

Published 17/12/2015 | 02:30

Grace Galvin (9), Finn McCluskey (8) and Conn McCluskey (5) with Federation of Irish Sport president and Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan at the launch of the group’s Annual Review. Photo: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Grace Galvin (9), Finn McCluskey (8) and Conn McCluskey (5) with Federation of Irish Sport president and Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan at the launch of the group’s Annual Review. Photo: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

The GAA will introduce blood testing as part of their anti-doping measures from January 1 but Dublin star Bernard Brogan believes the move is "too intrusive".

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Sport Ireland testers can now demand a urine or blood sample, or both, from a player. Previously, they could only ask for urine.

And while Brogan accepts that the move is important for the image of Gaelic games, he rejects the notion that it is necessary.

"We all want our sport to be seen in the manner that it is and the culture that it portrays," he said.

"And if that's what needs to be done to stand shoulder to shoulder with different sports, that's what needs to be done. Whatever we need to do to go out and play for our counties and our clubs, we'll do.

"Do I agree with it? I think it's a bit too intrusive to be taking blood from people. But whatever has to be done has to be done.

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"We have nothing to hide. No one has anything to hide in the GAA. We're a special sport. If that's what they need to do to make themselves feel as if the sport is pure, that's what has to be done.

"It's not something I think is the right route - to go in and take blood out of someone to prove that they're not cheating is a strange one."

Brogan himself was tested in the immediate aftermath of Dublin's thrilling All-Ireland final win over Kerry in 2011 but wonders how good some of the testing is, given the experiences of other sports.

"You look at even the cycling, there's always ways of cheating the system in any sport or anything - there's always ways of cheating the system. It comes down to where do you draw the line on that? Do you start taking hair samples?

"We'd won our first All-Ireland in 16 years and I had to stand in a toilet with some lad and drink a load of water because I was dehydrated. I missed the first 45 minutes of our celebrations in 2011 because I had to do that. In the end I actually brought him into the bar and had three bottles of beer, but that just shows.

"There has to be a bit of sense with it as well. It's fairly intrusive."

A Monaghan GAA player provided the first positive sample in the history of the GAA in March of this year that resulted in a two-year suspension.

However, Croke Park chiefs insist that positive result had nothing to do with the move to bring in blood testing.

"Sport Ireland would like to have introduced it for 2015 but we felt we needed the additional time to educate players particularly and also team doctors about what would be involved. We had committed to this last year," explained GAA director of games administration Fergal McGill.

McGill went on to insist that GAA chiefs are happy there is no systematic or widespread doping on the intercounty circuit.

"I don't think we have a doping culture but I would never be complacent about it. The second you get complacent about it, that's when the problem starts.

"I won't say we got complacent until last March but maybe we had coasted a bit and thought this is all grand.

"I don't think it has changed our view on whether there is a doping culture in the GAA. We always felt it would be pretty impossible to say Gaelic games is 100pc clean. It would be impossible to say that when we have 416,000-odd players.

"But are we happy with the levels it is at? I think so yes."

The move brings the GAA in line with other major sporting bodies around the world. However, as amateur players, they can only be tested at games and training and not at their homes.

The Gaelic Players' Association insist they were happy to go with the introduction of blood tests but warned that all parties involved would need time to get up to speed.

Objections

"This is about internationally accepted standards so it's difficult to have principled objections," said GPA spokesman Seán Potts.

"But we would stress the need for education. The GAA are meeting with management teams and county boards to educate them.

"We will be meeting panels who are reconvening now and explaining the protocols and it's important players are aware of the changes.

"Particularly in the next couple of months when there will be a lot of trialists around county panels. They will need to be brought up to speed."

Irish Independent

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