Sunday 22 September 2019

'It doesn't wash with me' - Ciara Mageean slams GAA's 'naive' response to doping case

European 1500m medallist and Olympian, Ciara Mageean. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
European 1500m medallist and Olympian, Ciara Mageean. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

European 1,500m medallist Ciara Mageean has called on those in the GAA to wake up to the threat of doping in the wake of Brendan O'Sullivan's positive test, highlighting what she sees as a "naive" response to the Kerry footballer's case.

The 25-year-old from Portaferry, who played camogie for Ulster as a teenager, believes O'Sullivan's case has also shown up double standards within Sport Ireland's anti-doping procedures.

"The fact an athlete served a ban and only then was it brought to light, if that was my sport that wouldn't have been the case," she said.

O'Sullivan tested positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine in April last year, though his case only came to light 13 months later via a report in the Sunday Independent. Sport Ireland's reasoned decision noted his positive test was caused by ingesting the fat-burning supplement Oxyburn Pro Superthermotech, with the report noting he "bore no significant fault or negligence".


That, however, is something Mageean takes issue with.

"For an athlete to be like: 'Oh, I didn't know', it doesn't wash with me," she said. "Maybe there is a naivety in the GAA where the athletes aren't aware, but that's the responsibility of the GAA to educate their athletes and for athletes to educate themselves.

"You like to think people are clean but you also have to ask: why did you take that?"

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As an international athlete, Mageean has been subject to testing since the age of 17 and has to submit her daily whereabouts to Sport Ireland, something GAA players, who can only be tested at training session or games, are not yet required to do.

"Even throughout my years of injury when I wasn't racing, I was still tested," she said. "I'm tested five to 10 times a year out-of-competition. People may be amazed how intrusive it can be but as an athlete I'm willing to offer my whereabouts. As a clean athlete I'm delighted to see the testers coming to the door. You welcome them."

Mageean, who was yesterday announced as a brand ambassador for Pop Up Races, believes that for the GAA to maintain its integrity, it has to increase its anti-doping effort.

"I don't think the GAA is the only sport here with people taking performance-enhancing drugs," she said. "There's a reason those drugs are banned and it's for the health of the athletes, to ensure there's fair competition. We all want a level playing field."


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