Thursday 22 February 2018

Dessie Farrell insists drugs 'not an issue' for GAA players

Dublin defender James McCarthy with the new Cul hero trading cards launched yesterday (Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE)
Dublin defender James McCarthy with the new Cul hero trading cards launched yesterday (Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE)
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Gaelic Players' Association (GPA) chief executive Dessie Farrell has admitted his surprise at how long it has taken for a GAA player to test positive for steroid use.

The players' chief was commenting for the first time in the wake of the revelations a footballer from Monaghan had an adverse finding from a test earlier this year.

Drug-testing has taken place in the GAA since 2002 with the only positive test to date coming in the case of Kerry's Aidan O'Mahony in 2008. The defender was later cleared of any wrongdoing as he used an inhaler to treat his asthma.

And while Farrell believes a positive test among the inter-county playing population was likely, he still sees GAA players as less likely to offend in that regard.

"In some ways it is quite remarkable that it has taken this long," he said. "(Irish Sports Council's Anti-Doping manager) Una May said herself that the GAA was a low-risk category and I think that was very valid.

"Right from the get-go we have always spoken of the importance to be vigilant even though we never believed it to be an issue.

"We wanted to do all we can to educate the players and inform the players. And (we) have all the stakeholders involved up to speed with the potential for performance-enhancing drugs to be introduced to the sport at some point.

"It has been a long, long time since we were first making those statements but there was probably a degree of inevitability that a case would emerge somewhere along the journey."

The GAA are currently signed up to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code which includes testing for recreational drugs which could have obvious repercussions for GAA players in their professional careers.

Some panels have been known to conduct internal drug tests through urine but blood-testing is on the way. The GAA's Medical Scientific and Welfare Committee will agree procedures for that process at the end of the month.


A total of 23 squads were tested last year and Farrell believes the GAA remains a clean sport.

"When you do the sums on it if there were 23 squads last year for example that would be 700 players - about one in seven or one in eight ratio chances of being (tested). That is significant.

"You could make the point the elite-level GAA players are a group that are highly-tested. I would be comfortable in saying that for the vast, vast majority of players it does not enter their consciousness.

"Would that mean that there would not be one or two players who are out there that would be tempted? Of course, you would (think) that would be the case. I think one of the big issues for us to deal with is that of the young vulnerable player.

"It is different if you are 28 or 29 and you are part of elite sport in the GAA, there is a culture around anti-doping and players are familiar with it. But it is a whole different ball game for new players."

Dublin star James McCarthy believes his team-mates are "pretty well-versed" in what they can and can't take. The Ballymun stalwart made his debut in 2010 but has yet to be tested but doesn't see any culture of suspicion amongst the playing population.

"I'd be very surprised (if drug-taking was an issue) from what I have seen myself.

"The way it is going there might be a bit more pressure on fellas to break through and they might try it but I don't see it as a problem really."

However, he believes any newcomers to an inter-county set-up might need some extra education.

"We'd have a fair idea and if you had any doubts you'd go to the doctor. I remember we got given these little books on what you couldn't take.

"We'd be pretty well-versed. It could be an issue for say younger players. They should definitely get a crash course."

Irish Independent

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