Authorities insist there are no dopers in the GAA
Ongoing random testing has failed to show any evidence of a problem within hurling or football
Sign on a wall in Thurles notifying players of a drug-testing station. “We don’t believe we have a problem. But that’s because we continue to educate players,” said director of games administration Fergal McGill. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The GAA does not have a doping problem. The highlighted figures prove as much. One positive test since 2001 and that was dismissed, on medical grounds, as the player in question was asthmatic.
In January 2009 Kerry’s Aidan O’Mahony was reprimanded but not suspended. Case closed and nothing since.
But a worrying fact bobbed above the surface recently. Turns out an intercounty footballer can play at the elite level for seven years, making it all the way up the steps of the Hogan Stand without ever being tested.
Donegal’s brilliant young captain Michael Murphy said as much, very matter-of-factly, when talking about the widespread use of supplements by his peers.
Still no problem?
“Our attitude is very simple,” said Fergal McGill, the GAA director of games administration and player welfare. “If there are people out there who are doping in Gaelic games we want to know about it, we want to catch them and we want to suspend them.
“The integrity of our games is at stake here so, absolutely, that’s why we are stepping up our education campaigns.”
In order to access the player grant, players will have to do a course on what can and cannot go into their bodies.
“It is our honest belief that any player who dopes within the GAA will do so out of lack of knowledge rather than a deliberate attempt to dope,” added McGill.
Another issue prompted action at central council level recently. When Dr Una May’s dope-testing team arrived at eight of their planned 53 out of competition Gaelic games training sessions in 2012 they were met by an empty field.
No cones. No sliotars. No balls. Nobody.
The explanation was weather conditions forced a change of venue. The testers arrive unannounced – that’s the whole point – so no one informed them.
Is this not a little suspicious?
“A little frustrating,” May replied. “There are a lot of different factors involved. I wouldn’t say I have a concern about it. I’m not suspicious of it. Frustrated, but not suspicious.”
An agreement was made to fine the county board €1,000 if it happens again.
“We do continue to have missed tests, yes,” May confirmed. “But then we also have missed tests in athletes as well.
“If we fail to find someone it is an issue for us more than them. If we are failing to find the same person consistently then obviously that is a major issue for us and straight away we will start targeting that athlete.
“We will target their training and competition schedules and look at them much more closely.
“Often it will be fairly obvious to us that they are a fairly incompetent administrator. You can see quite quickly the patterns emerging and the differences between what is clearly deliberate avoidance of testing versus sloppy paper work.”
Which category do the GAA teams that missed testing come under?