New iPhone app sees ISC step up war on drugs

THE Irish Sport Council has launched a pioneering iPhone app that will enable athletes to check if any medications they intend to use are banned.

The news came yesterday as the ISC’s Anti-Doping Report was released, confirming three previously-announced positive results from 979 tests carried out across 37 sports in 2010.

The Med Check will help athletes to avoid using a banned substance in any prescribed or over-the-counter medications, especially as the app is available free on the Apple iTunes Store (just search for Irish Sports Council).

The device allows users access the Eirpharm Drugs in Sport database, which contains the entire list of banned substances by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The chairman of the anti-doping committee, Professor Brendan Buckley said Ireland was a world leader in the war on drugs and the app was just another example of its continuing development.

“We do this not because we want to police people that we’re suspicious of but it’s part of the fundamental aspect of anti-doping that we wish to make sure that people achieve in sport by talent and application and not by the pharmacological knowledge of someone in the background who is feeding them the right potions” said Buckley.

“This is all about fairness and people playing by the rules and so that, behind our sense of national achievement, our admiration is based on the knowledge that (Irish sportspeople are) drug-free.

“This app is really moving with the times. When someone goes into a chemist shop they can look up, there and then, on their phone, to see if a flu remedy or whatever is okay to take.

“It’s easy to see us as people who go around testing and annoying athletes but the real function is to make life as simple as possible and take as much worry as possible away for athletes who don’t wish to inadvertently take the wrong thing.”

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring said the ideal goal was to have a drug-free Olympics next year and emphasised the importance of no Irish athlete failing a test at the Games, especially as they are “on our own doorstep” in London.

To that end, blood testing was also introduced accounting for 65 of the 979 tests carried out.

Blood testing is focused on the use of EPO in endurance sports such as cycling, swimming and athletics at present. It will be extended to other disciplines but GAA players will not be subjected to them in the near future.

“We haven’t ruled out blood-testing for them” said anti-doping committee director, Dr Una May yesterday.

“We will definitely start to do more sports and there is absolutely nothing to stop us doing GAA players and we will, at some point, but our priority is to focus on the really high-risk sports and get it right.”

The net appears to be tightening on those high-risk sports with the registered testing pool that focuses mostly on individual athletes in these disciplines reduced in number from 230 to 100 in the past 12 months.

The fact that GAA players were the most tested individuals within the national testing programme, apart from cycling, provoked some comment. Cycling had 94 tests compared to the GAA’s 92, with athletics (78), rugby (60), boxing (45) and swimming (45) next in line.

Additional urine tests were carried out under the user-pay programmes, where the federations pay for more tests but the amount of testing on GAA players seems high considering their amateur status. According to May though, this is not the case.

“In a way there’s two different sports there – football and hurling – and if you divide it in those terms there is a more even balance.

“In rugby they pay for a lot of additional tests (32) so they’ve 92 in total so you have to bear that in mind. Soccer with 53 is also comparable.”

Boards must cover cost of missed drug tests

GAA county boards must cover the cost of a drug-testing visit if a team does not arrive to train at the venue it had told the Irish Sports Council’s anti-doping committee it would do so.

This is as a result of the insertion of a sanction into the GAA’s anti-doping policy at national level at the request of the ISC, after repeated incidents of county teams making late switches of training venues without informing the testers.

There were 19 unsuccessful attempts to test in team sports last year, with nine of those involving GAA sides, eight in soccer and two in rugby.

The rarity of such occurrences in rugby means that the IRFU has not been asked to include a sanction, while negotiations are ongoing with the FAI to focus on the League of Ireland season.

The anti-doping committee argued that the GAA needed to impose some type of sanction however. This prompted Croke Park’s decision to make county boards cover the expenses of a wasted visit by its testers.

Meanwhile, the GAA has been informed that players can now be tested ahead of training rather than at its conclusion.

This decision has been made to avoid the type of dehydration problems that reportedly forced a Kerry player to be kept at a training venue a number of hours after a session had completed, due to his inability to provide a urine sample.

Picture: Junior Minister Michael Ring at the launch of the ISC’s app yesterday with John Treacy, CEO of the Irish Sports Council, right, and Dr Úna May, Director of Anti-Doping. Picture: SPORTSFILE

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