Dope testing chief insists GAA must stay vigilant over drugs threat
GAA PLAYERS were again among the most tested Irish athletes for drugs last year, despite the Sports Council's concession that they do not regard them as "high risk" compared to other sports.
But the head of Ireland's anti-doping programme has warned that the GAA should stay vigilant, particularly due to its cross-pollination with Australian rules football, where a drugs problem has emerged.
Gaelic footballers and hurlers underwent 87 tests in 2012, which was third only to athletics (158 tests) and cycling (130) and were marginally more tested than Irish rugby players (81 tests).
And while GAA players are only tested in-competition or at squad training sessions, this will again raise questions among those in the sport who argue that the regime is too stringent on amateur players.
Dr Una May (pictured), director of Ireland's anti-doping programme, admitted that their experiences to date have convinced them "that we don't consider GAA to be as high a risk as some other sports."
Yet she stressed that GAA players will continue to be subjected to the current testing levels because "we're not deluded in thinking they're exempt from the possibilities and potential of the problem."
And May warned that recent developments in Australia, where AFL team Essendon is allegedly among those involved in a big drugs sting, should increase the GAA's vigilance.
"What came out of the Australian Crime Commission last week was earth-shattering," she said.
"Young Irish players who go over there are potentially exposed to that sort of thing.
"That's one of the reasons why we won't drop our input into testing the likes of the GAA," she said.
"These things can filter across (continents) and there's no reason to believe that we will be immune. There isn't the same money (in GAA) as there is over there (in AFL), but there are always athletes who take risks," she warned.