GAA to discuss implementation of blood testing

Association will meet with Irish Sports Council to discuss the introduction of tests

Sign at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Inpho.

Sign at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Inpho.

 

The GAA will meet the Irish Sports Council later this month to discuss the implementation of blood testing within Gaelic games next year, which was announced during the week.

Among the issues to be resolved by the association’s Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee (MSWC) and the ISC will be whether blood tests are carried out in competition as well as out of competition, which largely means after matches or before training.

Chairman of the MSWC Ger Ryan says the GAA is comfortable with the demands of the anti-doping regime. “We will discuss with them how the introduction of blood testing will work and the various protocols as well as when blood samples will be taken.”

Two tests

She also said this wasn’t a case of the GAA playing catch-up in this regard but that the tests were being expanded through different sports. Athletics and cycling were first to introduce blood tests but that the procedures were also being “filtered down to other sports”.

Drug testing in Gaelic games was introduced in 2002 after agreement the previous year. A Freedom of Information request by The Irish Times some years ago revealed that signing up to the ISC anti-doping code was the principal condition on which the Fianna Fáil government of the time pledged €75 million to the redevelopment of Croke Park.

It is also now a requirement for receiving funds from the ISC that sports associations subscribe to the anti-doping code.

Although the Gaelic Players Association has signed up to the introduction of blood testing, the organisation intends to conduct a consultation process with its members in the weeks ahead, according to chief executive Dessie Farrell.

“I think you’ll find that players have at this stage become used to the culture of testing and that this will be seen as just an extension of that. So far no one’s been on to us about it but we’ll be taking soundings before deciding on how best to communicate and educate about the details.”

He also said players would be less inconvenienced by blood tests than having to provide urine samples, which can be hard to do when players are dehydrated after a match. It is likely that on occasion players may be asked to provide both.

Blood testing is not a gruelling process as just between 2mls and 5mls is required.

Thirteen years ago this month the first elite GAA players were tested. Brian Flannery of Waterford and his team-mate Paul Flynn were randomly selected for testing after the championship win over Cork in Thurles, along with Cork players Ben O’Connor and Fergal Ryan.

The Cork players attended without incident, but the Waterford players decided not to co-operate because they felt hey had been inadequately briefed on the testing. “We were very reluctant participants,” says Flannery now.

Amateur players

“We didn’t know enough about or what was on the prohibited list so we were very reluctant. The testers were refused entry to the dressing room and it was only later that evening in our hotel – and there was obviously a lot of phone calls from Croke Park – that we were made aware we had to do it and if we didn’t take the test we were in danger of being suspended.”

He says that looking back he still has reservations about the whole testing regime.

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