Saturday 23 February 2019

Sport Ireland slammed for decision to withhold GAA grants until players agree to drug tests at home

Diarmuid O'Sullivan
Diarmuid O'Sullivan
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Cork hurling legend Diarmuid O'Sullivan has slammed the fact that Government grants owed to GAA players are being withheld until they agree to undergo drug testing in their homes.

The Gaelic Players Association (GPA) has not signed up to Sport Ireland's new drug testing measures which include providing home addresses to drug testers.

GPA CEO Seamus Hickey has been in contact with players to explain why the grants have yet to be paid and how feedback from players has revealed that they are opposed to testing in their homes.

His message read: “Sport Ireland is withholding the payment of the 2017 and future State grants unless GPA members sign up to a range of new measures including the provision of home address for home drug testing.

“As currently stated in the Sport Ireland anti doping rules, only a limited number of athletes on a Registered Testing Pool are subject to home testing. Should the GPA agree to these new terms, all inter county players would be subject to home testing which, in our view is a wholly unreasonable demand on amateur athletes.

“We have in recent weeks consulted with you the player base through our Player Engagement Officers on this issue and the feedback from across the country has been overwhelmingly against at home testing. We have communicated this back to Sport Ireland and requested that they immediately release the 2017 grants and engage with us to agree a way to move the clean sport agenda forward - an issue that we are all passionate about.

"GPA members are among the most tested athletes in Sport Ireland's National Testing Programme, yet to date only two positive tests have been recorded against inter county players since testing began in 2001."

Hickey argues that the grants and the new drug testing measures should not have been linked.

“To us it is unfathomable why Sport Ireland consider these new measures to be necessary and why at the 11th hour they are linking them to the payment of State grants without any prior agreement with us on the issue," he added.

“GPA members are in full compliance with and supportive of current Sport Ireland anti-doping rules. Members were fully compliant with the Sport Ireland anti-doping rules in 2017 yet your funding linked to the 2017 championship is now being withheld by Sport Ireland and we believe that this is neither fair nor reasonable. We believe that Sport Ireland have no basis for withholding the grants.”

The GPA has called on Sport Ireland to pay the 2017 grant money due to players and have said they would engage with them on figuring out an efficient way to conduct drug testing on GAA players.

Reacting to the news this afternoon, Paddy Power GAA Ambassador and former Cork All-Ireland winner and selector, Diarmuid O’Sullivan said: “My view on this is very simple. These are amateur players you’re talking about here, not professional athletes so I wouldn’t see it as being fit or right for anti-doping tests to be carried out on these players outside of training hours. If they were being paid for a living to play GAA and drug testing was part of their contractual agreement then that’s fair. But I don’t think this is a fair expectation and 98% of the GAA fraternity would feel the same.

“These funds should be released immediately. These players are sacrificing enough. Their attendance at training sessions and dedication to an amateur sport already has a massive impact on their professional lives and indeed their personal lives. This money is due to them so I hope a solution is found fast before this escalates into something far more serious."

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