Monday 16 December 2019

GAA and Sport Ireland disagree over funding of doping defences

Páraic Duffy. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Páraic Duffy. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The GAA and Sport Ireland are at odds over the issue of who pays the legal fees and other expenses of a player defending a doping charge.

While acknowledging the "very positive relationship" that exists between the bodies, GAA director-general Páraic Duffy has referenced what Sport Ireland see as a "conflict of interest" when a County Board funds the defence of a player against a charge being dealt with by the GAA's own anti-doping hearings committee.

Duffy said GAA's Management Committee remained steadfast in its belief that a player's defence must be funded because they are amateurs who must be guaranteed a fair hearing "part of which is assured by proper legal representation."

To accept a "conflict of interest", as Sport Ireland put it, and decline to finance a player's defence would be viewed as an even greater conflict of interest in the context of any debate around the amateur status.

"Our view is that our players are amateurs - Gaelic games is their pastime, not their profession," Duffy writes in his annual report to Congress.

"It would be hugely expensive for a player to defend himself at the GAA Anti-Doping Hearings Committee as he would need legal advice in what is quite a legalistic procedure," he said.

"If the County Committee were not to pay the player's legal fees, and if a player, as a consequence, were not to receive legal representation, one might reasonably ask how he could expect to receive a fair hearing."

Management felt that "an unpaid amateur player is entitled to a full defence and, in instances where the violation is not intentional, his defence merits the support of his County Committee," Duffy states.

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Discussions were ongoing without a satisfactory outcome.

Duffy made his comments as he highlighted the urgency for players to have mandatory certification for completing an "acceptable" anti-doping programme before they play inter-county football.

He also hit out at some of the media reaction to the doping case involving Kerry footballer Brendan O'Sullivan which came to light last May, 13 months after he has tested positive for using caffeine tablets that contained a banned substance, taking particular umbrage at suggestions that the GAA fulfilled its anti-doping obligations "at the point of bayonet."

"These assertions fed a craving for sensationalism but were also utterly untrue. It is policy not to release specific details of any cases until the disciplinary procedures have run their course to ensure due process for players," he says, affirming that Irish anti-doping rules were followed "meticulously."

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