Sunday 4 December 2016

'There is doping in the GAA and that's for sure', claims Rohan

Michael Verney

Published 12/05/2015 | 02:30

Double Paralympic gold medallist Mark Rohan 'strongly believes there are dopers in the GAA'
Double Paralympic gold medallist Mark Rohan 'strongly believes there are dopers in the GAA'

Double Paralympic gold medallist Mark Rohan claims the GAA is no different from professional sports when it comes to cheating and strongly believes there are dopers in the amateur organisation.

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Rohan's comments come in the wake of the first doping scandal in the GAA over the weekend where the Sunday Independent reported that a Monaghan footballer tested positive for steroids in February.

The 33-year-old, who has been based in the US since December, was not surprised to hear the recent revelations and it is something he has been expecting for quite some time.

"I strongly believe there are dopers in the GAA. Once you involve money in sport it f***s everything up. The GAA is no different to any professional sport and is not exempt from cheats," Rohan told Independent.ie.

"You see big companies investing in county sponsorship and that puts added pressure on players. It just takes one high-profile guy to get injured and say 'okay I need to get something back over the winter, I need to build up something here'.

"A lot of the top counties have access to absolutely everything and the best of facilities and personnel but sometimes sports science only goes so far and the temptation for further gains is there."

Rohan, a promising U-21 Gaelic footballer in his native Westmeath before a road accident left him paralysed from the waist down in 2001, believes the subject of doping is taboo in the GAA but can't deny its presence.

As an elite sportsman himself, the handcycling champion cannot fathom the domination of teams in ultra-competitive and highly attritional sports like Gaelic games and is staggered by the visible physical gains made in recent years.

"I've watched GAA players at close quarters and they are phenomenal athletes. I've been in Croke Park for the big games and they are operating on a different level," he said.

"When you see it up close, they're on a different planet completely. There is doping in the GAA and that's for sure."

When Rohan sees something that is superhuman, he thinks just that. "There's no such thing as superhuman. You can't last that long at the top of a highly competitive sport," he added.

The GAA have been drug-testing senior inter-county players as part of an agreement with the Irish Sports Council since 2001 and last year conducted 89 drug tests. From his own experience, Rohan has faith in the system.

"One thing I would say is the Irish Sports Council do run one of the most comprehensive drug testing programs in the world," he said. "I've been tested twice since arriving in the US. If they are responsible for the GAA testing programme, then they will detect some of the cheaters."

Rohan, who was involved with the Westmeath footballers in 2013, maintains that the GAA is taking the lead from professional sports such as tennis and cycling where he believes doping is rife.

The native of Ballinahown, near Athlone, said: "I've played wheelchair tennis for a couple of years and you're always battling with your head and it's incredibly draining.

"The way those top guys compete for three, four and five hours and then come out the next day and the day after that showing no ill effects is unbelievable."

Irish Independent

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