Banner and Cork explain missed drug tests

All-Ireland champions Clare were among five top hurling counties who were absent for mandatory drugs tests last year.

Banner and Cork explain missed drug tests

Cork, Galway, Limerick and Tipperary were also fined for ‘missing’ one drugs test in 2013 as were the footballers of Donegal and Kildare. Clare ‘missed’ two tests on March 5 and March 22, 2013.

A Freedom of Information Act request revealed the seven county boards were handed penalties (the cost of the tests) totalling €4,784 and ranging from €453 in Kildare’s case last June to €791 in Cork’s situation last February.

As part of their Government funding, players must make themselves available for drug tests, which the Irish Sports Council are responsible for administering.

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald explained a change of training venues was the reason for both of their fines. Combined, the county board had to fork out a total of €1,007 for the costs incurred in March 2013. He insisted: “We didn’t miss any drug tests. The testers turned up at one place but we had moved training.

“We have no problem in cooperating with anything, but our venues change at different times. We have taken rakes of drug tests and all of them have been okay. We now have a fella who communicates with the Irish Sports Council all the time to ensure they know where we are and where we will be. Any time they want they’re welcome to come and test us. I am totally against performance-enhancing drugs.”

Fitzgerald’s father and Clare secretary Pat further explained: “They (ISC) just didn’t know that we were to train in one place then we couldn’t get that place. It was a change in venue and they (ISC) weren’t aware of it. It was an error but everything was corrected after that and they did a number of tests last year and some this year.”

According to the ISC documentation, All-Ireland runners-up Cork were the only team who provided an explanation for their absence. The training session at which the drug testers were to visit was cancelled on February 26 as the majority of their players were “training with the Munster Railway Cup and their respective Fitzgibbon Cup teams”.

Galway and Tipperary also failed to show for a drug test last spring, while Limerick were missing for one last May, less than four weeks before their Munster semi-final win over Tipp.

Donegal’s footballers were fined €750 for their absence on April 4 in 2013, three days before their final round draw with Dublin in Ballybofey, While Kildare were the only team in either code to miss one during the Championship. They were hit for €453 after a test wasn’t carried out on June 20, 10 days prior to their Leinster semi-final defeat to Dublin.

Last week, the ISC revealed 89 inter-county players were tested in 2013. 44 players were tested directly after games and 45 during collective training sessions. All came back negative for performance-enhancing drugs.

The ISC confirmed they didn’t receive any fines as the testers were remunerated directly by the county boards for the missed tests.

Their anti-doping director Dr Una May has no concerns about the missed drug tests. “I don’t think the GAA has a significant problem with doping. It would be naive to think that there might not be some players out there in the country who could be tempted to take doping substances, but on the whole I don’t think it’s a sport that has a problem with doping.”

May said other issues were at fault for the missed tests, including weather conditions which caused venues to be changed at late notice. “When teams miss tests, the vast majority of times it’s because of a late notice change to training. This can be because of the weather conditions, the pitch conditions or a match being scheduled they hadn’t originally anticipated.”

GPA player development and marketing manager Siobhan Earley said that while eight players last year presented themselves to the players body’s counselling service with alcohol issues none sought help for a drug problem.

Kerry footballer Aidan O’Mahony remains the only inter-county player to have tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug, although he was later exonerated after it was discovered the levels of Salbutamol in his system from the 2008 test were consistent with asthma inhaler use.

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