Saturday 20 January 2018

Why was it kept secret for so long? - More questions than answers after Brendan O'Sullivan's ban

Kerry’s Brendan O’Sullivan in action against Dublin’s James McCarthy during the 2016 National Football League final. Photo: Sportsfile
Kerry’s Brendan O’Sullivan in action against Dublin’s James McCarthy during the 2016 National Football League final. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Major issues over transparency in the implementation of the anti-doping regulations have arisen after it emerged that Kerry footballer Brendan O'Sullivan served a ban for violating the code last year.

Sportspeople deemed guilty of taking an illegal substance are liable for a four-year ban but it's understood that O'Sullivan's suspension was set at six months after Sport Ireland - who run the anti-doping programme - accepted his explanation that the rule violation was unintentional.

O'Sullivan was tested after last year's Allianz League final. It's understood that he offered a credible explanation for the presence of a banned substance in his system, resulting in a much shorter ban than might have been expected.

The Kerry statement read: "On the 24th of April 2016 Brendan O'Sullivan (Valentia Young Islanders & Kerry) underwent a routine Sport Ireland doping control test following the Allianz League final.

"The results of the test indicated a rule violation. Brendan O'Sullivan fully co-operated in assisting Sport Ireland.

Accepted

"The subsequent findings of Sport Ireland accepted that the rule violation was not intentional and the resultant suspension has been served. Sport Ireland is expected to deliver a written decision shortly.

"All involved with Kerry GAA are delighted to see Brendan back playing football.

"Kerry County Committee and Team Management will be making no further comments until the Sport Ireland report has been issued."

The statement followed a report in yesterday's Sunday Independent that a GAA player had failed a routine drugs test last year.

A spokesperson for Sport Ireland confirmed that "the Irish Anti-Doping Disciplinary panel has determined that an inter-county footballer committed an anti-doping violation."

The statement also noted that the panel "is expected to deliver its reasoned written decision shortly".

Providing a satisfactory explanation for the presence of a banned substance in a player's system does not guarantee immunity from sanction as the doping code holds that an individual is responsible.

The circumstances in which it got there can, however, be used in mitigation when it comes to handing down a suspension.

In 2015, Monaghan footballer Thomas Connolly was suspended for two years after testing positive for banned substance stanozolol.

He admitted taking the anabolic steroid but insisted that incorrect labelling had led to him taking the substance in error.

The GAA's anti-doping committee accepted his explanation and imposed a two-year, rather than a four-year, ban.

In 2009, Kerry star Aidan O'Mahony escaped a ban after presenting conclusive evidence that the presence of salbutamol - another banned substance - in his system arose from his use of an asthma inhaler.

The authorities accepted that it was being used for medical purposes and not in an attempt to gain any advantage.

Questions now arise as to why details of the O'Sullivan suspension remained secret for so long, when publishing the findings could help other players who may be unwittingly taking substances which are in violation of anti-doping rules.

Irish Independent

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