GAA drug-testing regime 'appropriate' - Sports Council
Gavin Cummiskey talks to Dr Una May about how Donegal captain can play seven inter-county seasons without being tested
Q. Are performance enhancing drugs regularly discovered in Ireland?
“There are vast amount of steroids coming into this country. We work very closely with the Irish Medicines Board so if they have a situation where they believe something may be connected to sport, even a faint possibility, they notify us and we investigate.
“We do have a very good working relationship with them.
“So yes, there is a lot coming into the country. The majority of it is going to . . . the normal drug culture has been expanded to include steroids not only for sport but the image enhancing, body builders, bouncers, people in the gyms and stuff like that.
“That is something else that is a risk as more and more GAA players are training in gyms. We do believe that substances are being abused within the gym culture and there is a risk a GAA player can come in contact with it.
“We are aware that is evolving. We are keeping an eye on it. When I talk about the intelligence approach we are aware of risks like that rather than randomly going out and testing teams every weekend. That’s wasting resources. It is far better if we focus on specific areas.”
Q. Missed testing of GAA teams still frustrating?
“We do continue to have missed tests, yes. But then we also have missed tests in athletes as well. Athletes don’t get sanctioned unless we have a missed test within their hour. But if we go looking for them outside their hour we still have to look for them, we still have the frustration and cost of trying to look for them. They might not be sanctioned and it might not go down on record anywhere and that’s why we started to record those figures 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, you know, paper work.”
Q. Which category do the GAA teams that missed testing come under?
“I don’t believe there is any GAA team that is clearly avoiding us.”
Q. You are doing it in rugby so what about blood testing in Gaelic games?
“I would have every intention of introducing it to the GAA in the near future. We haven’t started yet but we will do.
“It is something that is going to filter down to most sports at some point. There might not be an awful lot of it but, again, it will be the deterrent effect. What I don’t want that is athletes to have a belief that, ‘okay, if they don’t do blood tests I can take such and such in my sport.’
“If we believe it is a risk in a sport we want the athletes to know it can happen in their sport. It will filter down to any sport that has any vague risk at all. That will include the GAA at some point.”
Q. Six championship matches this weekend – how many players will be tested at these six venues?
“In any one match, four players will be tested so a random draw will take before the match, which will be attended by a representative of each team, and two players out of each team will be picked. The representatives won’t know who the players are until afterwards. They pick a card and sign the back of it and after they have left the doping control station the doping control officer will see what number player it is.”
Q. Testing in team sports – in competition or out of competition, which produces the greater number of positive results?
“Looking over our records and annual reports, you’ll find the majority of our positive tests have been in competition. They have been stimulants in competition. Stimulants are not prohibited out of competition.”
Q. Stimulants are not prohibited out of competition?
“They are abused by athletes to get them fired up for a competition. They are not as useful for someone in training. They don’t allow you train for significantly longer or help you recover from injury, like the things we would be looking for out of competition.”
Q. Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell – the recent sprint controversy proves doping remains a huge issue?
“There are two sides to these stories. The negative effect from all these positives, but a whole load of them have been caught so that’s changing. They are not getting away with it like they used to. There are new tests, new analysis, every day more and better tests. Samples are being stored if they are suspicious, if they don’t have the right analysis now, they can re-analysis them later. There is a lot more chance of catching athletes now so it is improving but it is still depressing to see how much doping is going on in sport.”