Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has launched a robust defence of Brendan O’Sullivan, the player at the centre of the anti-doping violation case, and criticised the protracted Sport Ireland process that dragged on for over a year, writes Tony Leen.
“It's been a tough 14 months, Kerry has had to keep its powder dry until the full Sport Ireland report was issued. That was the legal advice we were given all along.
“We have felt all along that neither Kerry or Brendan had anything to hide, there was a process there, and it took a lot longer than we anticipated it would.
“There's been some commentary to the effect that we've been trying to hide something - in fact it's the opposite. We felt it was important that we could have issued a full statement prior to it breaking in the public domain. Our hand was forced because of the report being leaked.”
Fitzmaurice also believes Sport Ireland should investigate the source of the leak to the media.
“That's a huge question. The how, why and who leaked it to the Sunday Independent. Who leaked that report when it wasn’t finished?”
He added: "We had a statement ready to go on this since last July, but it couldn't be released until the process was fully complete.
"Because this is a very robust process, you are guilty until proven innocent. Brendan was notified last May 12 at 10am, got a phone call. 'You failed a drug test, and by the way, you are banned for four years'.
"That call came from Sport Ireland, which said that under WADA regulations, he was now banned for four years.
"It was clear straight away what the contaminated product was because everything else he would have taken would have been through the Kerry set up.
"He didn't like the taste of the caffeine gel, he went and bought something off his own bat and it was contaminated. It took us 11 weeks to prove it was contaminated after being sent off to the labs for testing. Why everything takes so long in these things, I can’t understand."
Fitzmaurice explained that O’Sullivan’s ban was suspended once it was proved that the product was contaminated.
"Sport Ireland was happy at that stage that he hadn't cheated and for us that was the end of the matter," he said.
"We were just waiting for the process to be completed before releasing our statement. We heard nothing for the rest of the year, and on Dec 21st at 5.30pm, Brendan O’Sullivan gets a phone call to say you are now suspended for seven months.
"And Happy Christmas, by the way."