Tuesday 20 March 2018

Sport Ireland confident over use of blood testing in GAA

Dr. Úna May, Director of Participation and Ethics, Sport Ireland (SPORTSFILE )
Dr. Úna May, Director of Participation and Ethics, Sport Ireland (SPORTSFILE )
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Sport Ireland have reiterated their confidence in the blood testing procedures that will be introduced in the GAA during this year.

Having released its Anti-Doping Review for 2015, Gaelic games was found to be the fourth most tested sport in the country behind athletics, cycling and rugby and this year will be the first time that blood testing has been used in the GAA.

Monaghan footballer Thomas Connolly received a two-year ban for the use of anabolic steroids last June and Sport Ireland director of ethics and participation Úna May insisted that initial concerns surrounding blood testing in the sport have now been eased.

"It will begin during this year. We won't be discussing it until next year and we won't announce the day we are starting," she said.

"It will be both after matches and at training as well. We will probably start at training where there is a more relaxed environment, so that will be better starting off.

"There is always apprehension when you bring in new things. There were mixed messages in terms of the blood. First, they thought the blood testing was replacing urine and they were delighted with that, but they heard that urine testing would remain, there was a bit of concern.

"There will always be one or two people who will express a bit of concern. We've got over that now I believe and the doctors are happy to support it as well.

"It is an evolving process. And it is intelligence-led. We will get the information we get from the blood testing and use that information to do further testing."

The Anti-Doping Review also highlighted the fact that Sport Ireland signed an agreement with United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to conduct drug testing in UFC.

Despite its surge in popularity in recent years, UFC is still not a recognised sport in this country but chief executive of Sport Ireland John Treacy revealed that no national organisation has yet to make an approach to seek the necessary recognition.

Under the current regulations, Sport Ireland do not have the power to test an Irish UFC fighter unless it is sanctioned by USADA.

"That's a piece that needs to be put in place so that Sport Ireland can consider it," he insisted.

"We have met them but it wasn't a corporate body that we met. We met a number of individuals. It's up to them. They need to present a case to us and that has not happened.

"We're not excluding anyone but they have to go through a process. It's always better if sport is organised. It's a long road - it happens over three years."

Although he praised Sport Ireland for their stringent procedures, director general of World Anti Doping Association (WADA) David Howman warned that certain sports like soccer and rugby must consider drug testing from a younger age.

"Our job is just at elite level but what about kids who are trying to get a contract or get into an Academy when they're still in secondary school?" Howman maintained.

"I reflect on rugby and other team sports where those contracts are going to be available from the age of 18.

"That's the level I'm worried about because there's more enticement by agents and so on because they can see the dollars.

"They need not do a full programme. They could do a programme where they test kids and run a limited menu just like job drug testing. We should be thinking of those lateral ways."

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