Thursday 12 December 2019

Gaelic games not 'high-risk' in drug-taking league

The Irish Sports Council do not regard Gaelic games as high-risk sports for drug-taking
The Irish Sports Council do not regard Gaelic games as high-risk sports for drug-taking

Cliona Foley

The Irish Sports Council have repeated that they still do not regard Gaelic games as high-risk sports for drug-taking.

There was an unusual incident in one senior inter-county training session recently, whereby a player was selected to be tested, but did not take the test because of an injury received during the session.

The Sports Council (ISC) does not comment on individual cases, but the Irish Independent understands that they checked the chain of events with the testers and were satisfied that there was nothing suspicious about that incident.

Rumours that some players have been tested at their homes are completely untrue, as the GAA only tests players at matches or training.

The ISC tested 89 male players in the past year, 44 after matches and 45 at training.

Apart from athletics (165 tests) and cycling (149), this was marginally more than the 85 tests that they undertook on Irish rugby players. However, those numbers are misleading because testing of rugby players is much more rigorous. All of those 85 rugby tests were taken out-of-competition and 16 of them were blood tests, to which GAA players are not subjected.

On top of that, there were an extra 105 tests on rugby players in Ireland last year, not all of them Irish. These were ordered and paid for by organisations like the IRB, the Six Nations and the ERC and included 20 paid for by the IRFU.

Underage rugby players involved in provincial squads have also been subjected to testing for the past two years, which does not apply to young GAA players.

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Technically, the ISC can test GAA players out-of-competition, but this has not yet occurred and head of the ISC's Anti-Doping programme Dr Una May repeated yesterday that they do not regard GAA players as high-risk, despite the fact that GAA teams once again topped the list of missed tests (eight).

Individual athletes, who repeatedly miss tests, can earn a suspension, but when it happens to GAA teams, the ISC just fines their county board for the cost of testing and Dr May said they don't believe there is anything suspicious in that.

"I think it's genuine in that they (GAA teams) are subject to a lot more variation in their training venues and timetables and matches than the likes of rugby, who are very stable in where and when they train," she said, adding that there was "no team that would be a consistent offender."

"I know there's been some rumours flying around. I don't know where they've come from, but I would love if people would tell us if they have a suspicion about something," she said, revealing that the Sports Council intends to open a hotline in the coming year for people to raise any suspicions.

"We don't regard the GAA as a high-risk sport, we don't have a concern about it," Dr May stressed.

"We will continue to monitor it, we've always said we'd be naive to think that there wasn't some player who might take a risk, but, as a general rule, it's not a sport we have a real concern about."

But GAA players were warned once again of the danger of taking supplements that can be contamin-ated with illegal performance-enhancers, despite what is written on the labels.

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