Monday 24 April 2017

English: Soccer and rugby need blood testing more than GAA

European 800m silver medallist Mark English was in Dublin yesterday to launch a new pioneering initiative ‘Steps to Health’ – a joint venture by Healthy Ireland and the Community Games
European 800m silver medallist Mark English was in Dublin yesterday to launch a new pioneering initiative ‘Steps to Health’ – a joint venture by Healthy Ireland and the Community Games
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Mark English has welcomed the introduction of more rigorous drug testing in Irish sport but the middle distance runner doesn't believe that the spotlight should just be put on the GAA.

In light of last week's announcement that the Irish Sports Council would be introducing blood testing to the GAA from next season and following the revelation that a player from Monaghan failed a drugs test, the two-time European medallist is adamant that soccer and rugby should be monitored closely.

"It's (doping) pervasive in the likes of soccer," the Donegal native said at the launch of the Healthy Ireland Community Games new initiative 'Steps to Health'.

"I don't think GAA is the sport you need to look to. You really need to look to the likes of rugby and soccer. They're the big ones, the ones with the money in it.

"That's the reason people do it in the first place so GAA wouldn't be on top of my list for doping investigations."

English, who is a medical student at UCD, maintained that Irish sport will benefit from the new anti-doping measures as the public will develop more of a 'trust' in the competitors.

"I don't think it's going to be as pervasive in an amateur sport - there isn't the same motivation for people to cheat as there would be for guys on the athletics circuit who are chasing the dollars," the 22-year old explained.

"I still think it's vital that they are tested, though. There will always be a few who will try and cheat their way to the top.

"People need to believe in the sport that they're watching. If people are hearing that GAA players are being tested all the time, it's a benefit to the sport.

"Everyone knows that the testing procedures in Ireland are really strict and I think that's good for believing in Irish athletes.

"I've always felt that a lot of team sports were getting off lightly with the drug testing. It's good that it's going to come in, especially for the likes of rugby and the GAA.

"It's definitely a step forward for those sports because they really do need it."

Attitude

English firmly believes that athletes who are caught doping should not be given a second chance.

After testing positive for EPO in 2012, Westmeath-born marathon runner Martin Fagan made a controversial return to action in Zurich last month and ran a time that was good enough to qualify him for next year's Rio Olympics, but English takes a dim view of the situation.

"I don't think he should be picked. I believe that if you test positive, you shouldn't be let back in. The sport needs that," English said.

"I think if I were him, I would just not compete in the sport ever again, just for the sake of it. If he really loves the sport, he probably shouldn't.

"For me, okay you might be innocent but you failed a drugs test so I don't think you should really be in the sport.

"The sport has been too tainted that you can't be given a second chance. A few years ago, I probably wouldn't have realised how many people are actually tainting our sport with drugs but the amount of people that aren't believing in it means that you can't give these people a second chance."

On the track, English is preparing to go head-to-head with Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha in Ostrava on May 26.

English finished second to the Kenyan in New York last year but he knows the rewards that lie ahead, if he can go one better this time around in the 600m race.

"I see 600m as my perfect distance. It's probably his perfect distance as well but I don't think he's in the same shape that he was a few years ago in London," he said.

"It'll be a good chance to get him when he's probably at his weakest and I'm at my strongest.

"It would be a great thing if I could go out there and beat him. That's really only why I'm running it - to try and create a name around it.

"It'll be good for other things like PR and getting sponsorship out of it. It doesn't really matter what distance you beat him at because people will take notice of you regardless."

Beating Rudisha in 12 days would be perhaps the biggest feat in English's rapid rise.

Irish Independent

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