GAA players to be blood tested in new anti-doping push
The Irish Sports Council have confirmed that in line with their anti-doping programme, blood testing will be introduced to the GAA from 2016.
Speaking at yesterday's launch of the Anti-Doping annual review, CEO of the Irish Sports Council John Treacy outlined the plan to implement the testing in accordance with their intelligence-led approach which saw an increase of 31pc in blood testing figures in 2014.
Treacy has labelled it a "very important step" in the Council's attempt to further implement more stringent tests for banned substances, while the GPA have said that they will fully comply with the regulations. As part of the new procedure, an education programme will begin this year for members of the GAA before the blood testing comes into effect.
"We will be testing for blood in the GAA in 2016 and that has been agreed with them," Treacy explained.
"During 2015, we will be rolling out an education programme with the GAA and then the blood testing will come in next year.
"As we're developing our expertise around blood testing, we had certain priorities in terms of certain sports like cycling and athletics. They would have been the starting point in terms of the endurance sports and now we are filtering into the team events.
"Obviously, there needs to be an education programme done and the GAA have agreed that we will carry out the blood testing in 2016. It is a very, very important step."
Speaking on behalf of the GPA, the players' body's head of communications, Sean Potts, said that the organisation would continue to adhere to the anti-doping regulations but stressed that it was vital that enough time was given to allow members to fully understand the proposed procedures.
"The GPA and the GAA are fully committed to the anti-doping code. We have been recently made aware that it is a development that will be implemented in 2016," Potts said.
"There needs to be an education process put in place to ensure every member is fully aware of the procedures that are involved in blood testing and there must be a certain amount of time dedicated to that.
"That education will include players, management, back-room staff, medical staff, the county board and all relevant stakeholders in the game."
The GAA have been drug testing senior inter-county players as part of an agreement with the Irish Sports Council since 2001. In total in 2014, 89 drug tests were undertaken in the GAA - 44 in competition and 45 out of competition.
Commenting on the annual review, Treacy was satisfied with the Council's figures but he insisted that there is plenty more work to be done in the coming years.
"Our out-of-competition testing was at 75 pc which if you look worldwide, is right up there with other country's testing," the Olympic silver medallist said.
"Everyone knows that out of competition is the most rigorous of all and it is the most effective. It's the fools that are caught in competitions.
"We have two major advantages in Ireland: we're a small country, and our pool of athletes is relatively small which is a huge advantage.
"Also, the consequences for being caught for anti-doping in Ireland is far greater than it is in a lot of countries because of the nature of Irish society and that's a deterrent as well."