Dermot Earley says GPA open to more doping tests on players

GPA CEO wants to consult with members on ‘Super 8’ plans for hurling championship

Dermot Earley: launched the GPA’s 45-page strategic plan, entitled Players Thrive On and Off the Field. Photograph:  Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Dermot Earley: launched the GPA’s 45-page strategic plan, entitled Players Thrive On and Off the Field. Photograph: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

 

It may or may not be a sign of the times that the first question to Dermot Earley at the launch of the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) new strategic plan is about doping.

The GPA do list an anti-doping awareness protocol as one of their services within that 45-page strategic plan, entitled Players Thrive On and Off the Field, although Earley, their newly appointed chief executive, is adamant doping is not an issue for the GAA.

“Of course we want to ensure our games are clean,” he says, “but I don’t think there are any GAA players taking banned substances or doping. I’m not that long away from the game, and never experienced it in my career, and I don’t think that doping is an issue at the moment, and I don’t think that players are deliberating doing it. And I’d be close enough to players to know.”

The question is prompted by the recent anti-doping violation of Kerry footballer Brendan O’Sullivan, who tested positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine (MHA), which he was able to prove was contained in a mislabelled fat-burning supplement. Part of the issue, O’Sullivan claimed, was a lack of anti-doping awareness, and Earley did identify the need for increased education and possibly more testing too.

“I’d be open to discussing that with the GAA. We’re meeting them tomorrow, and I think the protocols around anti-doping are on the agenda, and it might be possible [to increase testing].

“On education, again, the responsibility for that falls on the GAA. We’re hoping to up that amount of education, so that anybody, before they even come on to a intercounty panel, or even pull on a jersey, have that education to ensure whatever they take is cleared by their doctor or comes from the county set-up.”

More games

Earley is also looking for the GAA to postpone the proposed restructuring of the All-Ireland hurling championship, on a three-year trial basis from 2018 to 2020, until all GPA members are properly consulted. Central Council were due to discuss them this Saturday.

“We only got it last Wednesday, and it is difficult to get out information across. So we have to consult with all out hurling squads, and if we don’t get the feedback in time, I will be asking Central Council to postpone it until the next meeting.

“There is talk of a Special Congress in November, and the next Central Council meeting is in August, so another two months is not going to kill anybody, and allows for any issues or adjustments to be brought forward.

Like the Super 8 in football, however, the proposal will mean more games in hurling, despite the fact the 2015 GPA championship structures were rejected because they included extra games in the summer.

“I’ve already brought that point to Paraic Duffy, that our proposal was rejected before it even got to Central Council on the basis that it had extra games, and now their proposal has extra games. That’s obviously annoying, but for us, it goes back to the first part of our strategic plan. The Super 8’s are in for the next three years, and we accept, but we can still work on developing something to improve on that, by 2020.”

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