The Irish Examiner yesterday reported seven teams, the hurlers of Clare (twice), Cork, Galway, Limerick and Tipperary as well as the Donegal and Kildare footballers, were absent when drug testers arrived at training grounds to seek samples in 2013.
Cork and Clare have cited a change of venue and cancellation of training for not being where they informed Irish Sports Council (ISC) they’d be.
Potts underlined the GPA’s commitment to the ISC’s anti-doping code and believes the communication channels between county boards and the testers have improved since.
“I know the matter has been raised at Central Council before and the GAA’s Management Committee were at pains to point out the responsibility lies with the county boards,” he said.
“There have been logistical issues but it would be wrong to read anything more into it. It would be mischievous to suggest there is anything else other than that. A lot of counties don’t have training centres and sometimes they have to move around because of availability and weather issues. Communications have been tightening up, though, and the issues seem to be rectified.”
As part of the Government grants for inter-county players, the GAA and GPA are signed up to the anti-doping code. However, Potts stresses the official players’ body’s members believe in the principle of the tests.
“It’s not just because of the grants but in general. It forms part of our general narrative to players and we would constantly reappraise our members of the anti-doping code and the potential pitfalls around the use of supplements. By and large, we’ve got a very positive reaction from them. Beside the importance of it to the integrity of the sport, they see it as a welfare issue themselves.
“It’s not something you tell them about and leave off — it’s an ongoing process. There are reputation issues for non-compliance as well. We work closely with the Irish Sports Council and anti-doping unit. I think Ireland has a very good reputation in terms of the code and compliance. I think it’s clear the Irish Sports Council are not concerned about doping in Gaelic games and the issues are more about communication.
“It’s something we take very seriously. We’re talking about amateur players but it’s important that there is full compliance with something we see as a major welfare component.”
Meanwhile, following yesterday’s original story in this newspaper, the Donegal Post were forced to withdraw a story from their website claiming three of the senior footballers were fined €750 for “their failure to turn up for a mandatory drugs test before they played Dublin in the Allianz League last year”.
The Donegal Democrat reported the county board confirmed the fine was received as training had been moved from Castlefin to Ballybofey and suggesting the players were fined was “misleading”.
The statement read: “CLG Dhún na nGall wish to clarify that no players from the Donegal senior football team received fines for failing to turn up to a mandatory drugs test last year.
“The headlines which appeared in one online publication is totally untrue. It is also misleading to claim three players have been identified.
“CLG Dhún na nGall cooperate fully with the Irish Sports Council at all times in arranging drugs tests, and the normal practice is two players are randomly selected to participate.
“The facts of the matter are that representatives of the Irish Sports Council attempted to carry out a drugs test on CLG Dhún na nGall Senior Footballers at Robert Emmet Park, Castlefin on April 4 2013 at 6.40pm.
“On that particular evening, training had been moved from Castlefin to MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey, at the last minute, and the ISC had not been notified of the change of venue. As a result, CLG Dhún na nGall received a fine of €750.”