Drug testing on GAA players queried

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Updated: March 10, 2011

Not for the first time the question of amateur GAA players having to undergo routine drug tests has come under scrutiny following news that a seriously dehydrated member of the Kerry Gaelic Football team was delayed for more than three hours by an official from the Irish Sports Council’s drug testing unit, according to reports in the ‘Irish Examiner today’ .

The unnamed player had been unable to provide a urine sample and thus it was around midnight when he was able to return home. The player had been randomly selected following a squad training session in Austin Stack Park, Tralee late on Tuesday evening.

It is believed that since arriving at training and leaving, the player spent almost six hours there.

“It was a joke,” said a source close to the player. “He didn’t sign any contract to commit to it. He’s not a professional. He had a job to go to the following morning.”

GAA director of games administration Feargal McGill sympathised with the player’s predicament whilst emphasising the importance of the Association’s commitment to the Irish Sports Council’s anti-doping controls.

“It’s not uncommon in our sport or most other sports,” said McGill. “The problem is when a player finds it difficult to pass urine.

“The bottom line is we’re committed to the anti-doping programme rolled out by the Irish Sports Council.

“We have great sympathy for players who find themselves in such situations. The procedure of providing a urine sample is not necessarily comfortable for most of them.

“However, it is one of the conditions laid out for the Government-funded grants for inter-county players and it has to be adhered to.”

The issue of random testing has always been controversial since introduced in 2001 but the ISC reiterates that GAA players must be available for testing if funding for the GAA and the inter-county players’ Government-funded grants scheme.

Indeed as part of its protocols with the GAA, the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) agreed to ‘strict compliance’ with the ISC’s controls.

In 2010, some 92 random tests were carried out on Inter County GAA players – all of them negative. Most players wonder why such tests cannot be carried out at the start of training session rather than the end when inevitable many will be dehydrated.

Kerry’s Adrian Mahony, underwent a very stressful period back in 2008 after the All Ireland final against Tyrone when he tested positive – with ‘abnormally high levels of salbutomol’ in the test. He was completely cleared of any wrong doing eventually, hardly surprisingly since both the player and the county bhad already previously lodged medical documentation with the GAA showing that he was an asthmatic, and required salbutamol to keep it under control.

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