Thursday 23 November 2017

Questions over expediency still hanging over O'Sullivan case

 

The crux of the matter is that it was consumed in all innocence. Photo: Sportsfile
The crux of the matter is that it was consumed in all innocence. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

At the launch of the Leinster Football Championship just over 12 months ago, Jim Gavin questioned the timing of post-match drug-testing in the GAA.

Typically, four players, two from each side, are invited to provide samples. On the day of the National Football League final, the four players in question - two from Dublin, two from Kerry - were forced to miss the 'Laochra' show which was the GAA's celebration of the 1916 Rising.

Gavin was a little irked by this and, while he had no issue with the concept of testing, the timing was something he challenged, suggesting it could be conducted the next day instead, at a recovery session.

Little could Gavin, or anyone for that matter, have imagined that the same series of drug tests would create such a storm for their great rivals 13 - yes, 13 - months later.

Given that the previous case involving an inter-county GAA player took four months to conduct - from a mid-February test to a mid-June publication of findings, the time that this case, still not completed, has taken has naturally raised many questions.

For their part Sport Ireland yesterday recognised the need to set out the chronology of events that led to Brendan O'Sullivan being found guilty of an anti-doping violation on April 24, 2016 still awaiting a full judgment at the end of May 2017.

They also saw need for Dr Una May, their director of participation and ethics, to take to the airwaves to add further substance to why it had been such a protracted case and why his suspension could be served in two different tranches.

Because of the nature of the violation - that it was likely to have involved a contaminated product, which the player accepted leading to an initial consultation process with Sport Ireland regarding the sanction to be imposed on him - the chairperson of the Disciplinary Panel was able to lift the provisional seven-month suspension which O'Sullivan subsequently refused to accept.

Under new anti-doping rules brought in two years ago, cases that are deemed to involve such contamination can be suspended in this manner, Dr May subsequently pointed out.

O'Sullivan was suspended from May 13 to July 28 and was subsequently eligible for selection for Kerry's All-Ireland quarter-final against Clare and semi-final against Dublin. In subsequent months he was also available for South Kerry in the county championship and Valentia in the South Kerry Championship.

It was only in February, 10 days after his case was heard by a GAA anti-doping committee who reduced it to six months, that O'Sullivan's suspension became 'live' again.

A further appeal to an Irish Sport Disciplinary Panel reduced it to 21 weeks, and that ended in early May.

The reasons for why there was acceptance from Sport Ireland that O'Sullivan bore "no significant fault or negligence" will become clearer with the publication of the judgement.

But the delay in progressing this case and completing the judgement, two months on from the appeal on March 30, is still hard to comprehend.

Why, for instance, was there a five-month gap between the lifting of the suspension at the end of July and the referral of the case to a GAA anti-doping committee which took place a month later?

That wasn't apparent in the Sport Ireland statement.

Is there no deadline by which an appeal must be lodged?

It's certainly at odds with the GAA's own three-day timeline for seeking a hearing or appealing a disciplinary verdict.

From Kerry's point of view the question has to be asked as to whether any of their other players were taking the product and, if so, did they alert their players to the dangers of potential contamination that O'Sullivan took on board.

If not, why not?

What is MHA?

WADA describes methylhexaneamine as "a pharmacological substance classified as a stimulant that was commercialised up to the beginning of the 1970s. MHA reappeared a few years ago as a constituent of dietary supplements sold freely on some markets or on the internet."

Methylhexaneamine is a vasoconstrictor, which increases heart rate and blood pressure, although it is also used a dietary supplement to keep weight down. The substance was added to WADA's banned list in 2010 and there have been prior cases of sportspeople accidentally taking it. Hamilton Academical footballer Simon Mensing served a one-month ban in 2010 after testing positive for methylhexaneamine, which was contained in a weight loss supplement.

 

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