Wednesday 13 December 2017

Kerry board defends handling of Brendan O'Sullivan's failed test

Brendan O'Sullivan. Photo: Sportsfile
Brendan O'Sullivan. Photo: Sportsfile
John Greene

John Greene

The Kerry County Board has defended its role in keeping Brendan O'Sullivan's ban for a failed drugs test secret. The player was tested after the league final in April 2016 and tested positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine.

After a lengthy process, which only formally came to an end last Thursday, O'Sullivan clearly established that the cause of his positive test was a contaminated supplement he had taken at half-time in that game against Dublin. He was subsequently banned for 21 weeks. The ban expired early last month, three weeks before the story was broken by this newspaper.

However, Kerry board chairman, Tim Murphy, said yesterday that they stood by their decision to keep the matter under wraps, and confirmed that they only publicly identified O'Sullivan last weekend because of the Sunday Independent story.

"From Kerry County Board's point of view, our position was to protect the players, both Brendan and the other members of the panel, at all times, and that's what we have done - and we won't be apologising to anybody for it," Murphy told Radio Kerry.

Murphy admitted that the controversy had represented "a steep learning curve" for all involved.

"There's no organisation that can't learn from an event like this," he said. "It's been a steep learning curve for everyone but I'd be confident that all the checks and balances that are required to educate and to make sure that all our players are fully aware of the various ins and outs of this whole area of supplements is quite strong. We're constantly working on it; we're not going to take our eye off the ball. We'll constantly work on improving the structures and procedures within the county board and the whole management set-up."

And he said it had taken its toll on O'Sullivan and his family, explaining: "I don't think the general public realise the extent of the emotional trauma that man has gone through for the last 12 months, it's been incredible really. I have to say he's been exemplary in the whole process from start to finish - he co-operated fully with the inquiry and thankfully it is at an end for himself and his family, and for Kerry in general."

He said he did not believe O'Sullivan's name had been tarnished because "it's very obvious that it was unintentional and Brendan bore no significant fault".

Since news of the positive test - the third in the GAA since testing began in 2001 - broke last Sunday the spotlight has shone on the drug-testing of inter-county players. In 2016, 97 inter-county players were tested but several high-profile figures - like Tyrone's Philip Jordan - have suggested that more players should be tested.

In today's Sunday Independent, Alan Brogan - who played for Dublin for 14 years - reveals he was never drug-tested. And Ross Munnelly, who is in his 15th season with the Laois footballers and has featured in 66 successive championship games, also reveals he has yet to be tested after training or a game.

"Some of my team-mates have been tested but, as of yet, I haven't been selected," he said. "I wouldn't have a problem with more frequent testing. I think this would lead to better education and more awareness among players."

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