Less than one in four inter-county GAA players say they have ever been tested for doping during their careers.
Older players were more likely to have been tested at some point, with just 7% of 18-21-year-olds reporting that they had been tested.
The figures were reported in an ESRI study on player welfare among senior inter-county GAA players.
The study, titled ‘Safeguarding Amateur Athletes’, was commissioned by the GAA and the Gaelic Players Association and is the second such investigation of player welfare to be commissioned.
In addition to finding that players would like to see a reduction in their playing time and that their sporting commitments had impacted on education and career choices, the study also analysed aspects like diet, alcohol consumption, the use of supplements and drug-testing.
Of the players surveyed, fewer than one in four (23%) have been tested for doping during their inter-county career.
The probability of ever being tested increased with age, with older players having a greater likelihood of having been tested for drugs.
While only 7% of players, aged 18–21 years, were ever tested, the report found that 35% of players aged 31 and above had been tested.
Division 1 footballers (34%) and MacCarthy Cup hurlers (39%) were also more likely to have been tested than players at other levels of competition.
Additionally, some 92% of players have taken supplements of some sort at some stage of their career.
This finding of high supplement use suggests that broader drug testing is needed at all levels, according to the ESRI. Footballers (97%) were more likely to have taken supplements than hurlers (88%).
Overall, 56% of players stated that the decision to take supplements was, in part, their own.
Of concern, according to the report’s authors, is the high proportion of players sourcing supplements from outside the sporting set-up.
While 26% sourced supplements from a member of the inter-county team set-up, one-third sourced their supplements online.
The report’s authors warned that greater monitoring of supplement use is needed. Overall, only 56% of players who took supplements during the 2016 season were monitored by their inter-county management.
Supplement monitoring was more common in football (65%) than in hurling (46%).
In comparison, two-thirds of inter-county footballers said that their diet is monitored within their set-up. In general, the higher level at which they play, the higher the level of monitoring.
The report found that 89% of players reported alcohol consumption, which is similar to that of the general population.
Consumption typically declined during the season — but outside the season, it could increase to as many as 11.4 drinks per session.
Binge-drinking was found to be common also, with 88% of players conceding they do so in the off-season.
The percentage in the general male population of the country is 66%.
Some 80% of players believe that their team-mates engage in gambling on a daily or a weekly basis, while 77% said they do not believe their team-mates engage in recreational drug use.
“Encouragingly, our own research tells us that players who are actively engaged in their own personal development through GPA programmes are less likely to engage in risky behaviours in these areas and benefit from a better-balanced lifestyle,” said Gaelic Players Association CEO Paul Flynn.