Bernard Brogan: GAA blood testing a step too far

Dublin football star Bernard Brogan has hit out at the GAA’s new anti-doping procedures and labelled the introduction of blood testing as “a bit aggressive” and “too intrusive”.

Bernard Brogan: GAA blood testing a step too far

The GAA’s Medical, Scientific and Welfare committee has confirmed that, from 2016, anti-doping testers will be allowed to extract both blood and urine from players.

Exactly which test is conducted will be at the discretion of the tester and, in certain circumstances, both blood and urine will be collected.

GAA head of games administration, Feargal McGill, said the development had nothing to do with the fact that a player in Monaghan tested positive for a banned substance earlier this year.

McGill explained that Sport Ireland administrators had wished to introduce blood testing for 2015 but that additional time was required to educate players and team doctors about what would be involved.

The GAA official said that the Gaelic Players Association “weren’t thrilled” but that the body grudgingly accepted the new measures on the basis they are designed to protect the integrity of Gaelic games.

All Star and Footballer of the Year candidate Brogan revealed his personal dissatisfaction with the widening of testing procedures and questioned how far anti-doping officials will ultimately wish to go to weed out cheats.

“Do I think there’s a need to go into blood testing? No,” said Brogan.

“I don’t think that anyone is ... we’re amateur footballers, we’re very proud of what we do. Do I think there’s going to be any abuse of that? I’d be very surprised.

“To get blood tested is a bit aggressive, I think.

“But, as I say, we’ll just kind of get on with whatever we do. We have nothing to hide.

“No-one has anything to hide in the GAA. We’re a special sport. If that’s what they need to do to make themselves feel as if the sport is pure, that’s what has to be done. It’s not something I think is the right route, to go in and take blood out of someone to prove that they’re not cheating is a strange one.”

Brogan said he was personally put out by drug testing procedures which kicked in immediately after Dublin’s breakthrough All-Ireland success in 2011.

“We’d won our first All-Ireland in 16 years and I had to stand in a toilet with some lad and drink a load of water because I was dehydrated,” said Brogan. “I missed the first 45 minutes of our celebrations in 2011 because I had to do that.

“In the end, I actually brought him into the bar and had three bottles of beer, but that just shows.

“Like, there has to be a bit of sense with it as well. It’s fairly intrusive.”

Drug testing of GAA players has been in place since 2001 as part of an agreement with the Irish Sports Council. A Medical, Scientific and Welfare committee report released yesterday revealed 95 GAA players were tested in 2015 as part of the anti-doping programme.

All GAA members are subject to the GAA’s anti-doping rules though, in reality, testing only takes place at county level. McGill admitted the positive test earlier this year in Monaghan focused minds in the GAA without setting off any alarm bells.

“I don’t think we have a doping culture but I would never be complacent about it,” said McGill. “The second you get complacent about it, that’s when the problem starts. I won’t say we got complacent until last march but maybe we had coasted a bit and thought, ‘this is all grand’.

“I don’t think it has changed our view on whether there is a doping culture in the GAA, we always felt it would be pretty impossible to say Gaelic games is 100% clean.

“It would be impossible to say that, not when we have 416,000 odd players. But are we happy with the levels it is at? I think so, yes.”

McGill accepted that in the drive to catch anti-doping violations, a player who has taken recreational but non-performance enhancing drugs may be caught, potentially causing significant damage to his reputation and job prospects away from the game.

“It’s one of the dangers,” he said. “Recreational drugs are part of society, there’s no point in saying they aren’t and the GAA represents a cross section of society at any given point in time so I wouldn’t be naive to say there aren’t GAA players engaging in recreational drugs.

“But I would make a slight distinction about them.

“You can’t condone them because they are illegal but they are not necessarily performance-enhancing and what we are trying to do and what people are trying to do around the world is prevent performance enhancement.

“In terms of future tests, obviously that’s a concern that fellas would get caught because of recreational drugs. Having said that, at roughly 100 tests a year for the last 13 or 14 years, you’d have suspected it would have shown up in a test.

“The second thing is that particularly at senior inter-county level, if you are really serious about achieving what you want to achieve, you aren’t going to be too fond of recreational drugs or get too engaged with them.”

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