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Dublin: 10 °C Monday 25 March, 2019
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Nothing to fear from teen doping tests, says Sports Council

The Irish Sports Council and IRFU have announced plans to begin anti-doping tests for schools rugby players in the near future.

Matthew Rea, Conor Joyce and Ultan Dilhane check out the Irish Sports Council's Anti-Doping Android App at the U19 IRFU National Age Grade Talent Camp in Clongowes Wood College.
Matthew Rea, Conor Joyce and Ultan Dilhane check out the Irish Sports Council's Anti-Doping Android App at the U19 IRFU National Age Grade Talent Camp in Clongowes Wood College.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

THE IRISH SPORTS COUNCIL’S head of anti-doping has insisted that there’s no need to be alarmed by the introduction of drugs tests for schools rugby players.

Yesterday, the ISC and the IRFU revealed joint plans to introduce a framework which would see underage players educated and tested for the use of performance-enhancing substances.

The move towards greater awareness comes amid growing concerns about the volume of dietary supplements taken by teenage players, many of which are bought and used without appropriate medical advice.

The plan raised some eyebrows due to the young age of the athletes involved. But, speaking to TheScore.ie this afternoon, Dr Una May stressed that there was nothing untoward or unusual about this type of policy.

“We already have tests like this in place for younger athletes in plenty of other sports. If you look at swimming or gymnastics, we come across younger athletes on a regular basis,” May said.

The systems are already in place to protect both players and testers. Anti-doping tests are clearly covered both in international standards and our own standards.

May stressed that the framework is still very much in the planning stages, but said that the issue of teenage consent would have to be ironed out before any tests are introduced.

You’ll find that consent to testing is often presumed when players take part in a sport, but we wouldn’t do that. There’s obviously a need for parental consent in some cases and we’ll be working to get agreement on this before we introduce any tests. That’s key.

“I think most of the concern has arisen because these players are representing their schools in a lot of cases, but we have no intention of going into schools to carry out tests,” she said, adding that the education and testing plan will be phased in over time, starting with the older elite players.

“When we do get around to starting this process, we’ll be starting at the highest levels where it’s likely that we’ll have succeeded in educating the players.

“By testing them at international training camps and other similar settings, we’ll hope to make the process as easy and as comfortable for the players as possible.”

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Niall Kelly

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