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Thursday 23 November 2017

At least 15 GAA teams fail to show up for drug tests in last two years

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

SEVERAL leading GAA teams have missed drugs tests in the past two years, records obtained by the Irish Independent reveal.

Irish Sports Council (ISC) documents show the amateur association has paid fines on at least six occasions after inter-county teams failed to show up at pre-arranged training venues.

Since 2001, each county has had to provide the ISC with a list of training times and venues for male and female inter-county teams.

This is to allow drug testers to perform random tests as part of the council's anti-doping work.

However, documents rel- eased under freedom of information rules reveal several teams have been "no shows".

In 2010, nine teams were not where they said they would be when drug testers made unannounced swoops.

There were 92 urine tests -- 48 out of competition -- carried out on GAA players during that year. Three players are normally tested during an out-of-competition inspection.

The records show that on at least six occasions last year, the GAA agreed to reimburse drug testers for the cost of travelling to pre-arranged venues where teams failed to show.

But the GAA is no longer willing to foot the bill centrally and has now decided to fine county boards in future for each "no show".

The fines are expected to range between €300 and €900, depending on the distance the tester had to travel.

The main reason put forward for teams not being present at pre-arranged venues is that training was switched because of water-logged pitches.

In the past decade, there has been only one failed drug test involving a GAA player.

But he was later cleared after it was found he was taking the drug Salbutamol for his asthma and not as a performance enhancer.

Dr Una May, director of the anti-doping unit of the Irish Sports Council, told the Irish Independent it was its policy not to name the teams which were not present at the scheduled training group.

If a team fails to show, the council notifies the GAA and seeks to recoup the costs of fees for the testers, sample collection, laboratory analysis and mileage, which can range from €300 to €900.

"The cost varies quite significantly. If they have to travel, it incurs more costs."

The teams must keep the ISC informed of their training venue and alert it if the normal pitch has had to be abandoned due to problems such as water-logging.

Dr May said the GAA was the only one of the main sporting organisations with which the ISC had an agreement for reimbursement of costs.

Overall, GAA players have a very good acceptance of the need for dope testing and no major difficulties have arisen.

The ISC is concentrating a lot of its drug testing this year on Irish athletes who are to take part in the Olympics.

The GAA declined to disclose the names of the teams which breached rules and switched training venues without notifying the ISC.

SHOULD GAA MANAGERS BE PAID? see SPORT

Irish Independent

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