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Dublin: 3°C Sunday 16 May 2021

'There was a degree of inevitability' that a GAA player would fail a drugs test

GPA Chief Executive Dessie Farrell speaks out after a week that cast the drugs issue into the spotlight

GPA Chief Executive Dessie Farrell
GPA Chief Executive Dessie Farrell
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

GPA CHIEF EXECUTIVE Dessie Farrell feels it was inevitable that a GAA player would test positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

It was revealed last Sunday that a Monaghan player failed an out-of-competition drugs test, which took place last February.

The GPA are currently assisting the player in question and Farrell has spoken out on the topic after a week when the subject has been cast into the spotlight.

Player failing a drugs test…

“In some ways it is quite remarkable that it has taken this long. Una Maye said herself that the GAA was a low risk category and I think that was very valid.

“We have always spoken of the importance to be vigilant even though we never believed it to be an issue.

“There was that whole concern not to be complacent about this issue and we wanted to make do all we can to educate the players.

“It has been a long, long time since we were first making those statements but there was probably a degree of inevitability that a case would emerge somewhere along the journey.”

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The potential pressure on fringe players to go down that route…

“I think that is a valid point. There are a couple of issues around that. The first relates back to education and awareness.

“But the other is specifically related to the player in terms of how it can impact on him. I think that sometimes that is lost in the information and discourse around it.

“There is a real health and safety issue here for players and then there is the whole reputation damage that can impact on the players as well.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

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The temptation for players…

“I would be comfortable in saying that for the vast, vast majority of players it does not enter their consciousness. Would that mean that there would not be one or two players who are out there that would be tempted? Of course, it would mean that.

“One of the big issues for us to deal with is that the young vulnerable player. It is different if you are 28 or 29 and you are a part of elite sport in the GAA.”

Internal testing on panels…

“I know it has happened in certain squads over the years. How prevalent that is, I don’t know but I suspect it’s not very.”

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Blood tests….

“This is a very new departure and it was unhelpful that it was announced last week. The Irish Sports Council and their anti-doping unit fulfil a very important function. They do their job really well, they’ve a world-renowned programme in place.

“There has to be (a) comprehensive education awareness programme put in place so this arrives in the right place among all stakeholders. It’s not just players involved, there’s team doctors and their role, there’s team management and the county boards.”

John Treacy John Treacy at last week's Irish Sports Council Anti-Doping annual review Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Last weekend’s revelation of drugs test failure…

“That is disappointing (that it emerged before the end of the process) and I think unhelpful. One of our primary concerns in all of this is the well being of the player and his capacity to deal with what is a pretty traumatic event in its own right.

The media attention doesn’t help, and the fact it was leaked before due process was complete is unhelpful.

“We’re not alone in that. It happens in other sports. And unfortunately that confidentially has been leaked on numerous occasions.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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