Inter-county Gaelic players have yet to receive their Government grants from last year as the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) have not signed up to the Sport Ireland’s new drug testing measures, which include providing home addresses for home doping tests.
Footballers and hurlers yesterday were sent a message from acting CEO Seamus Hickey, who explained the “neither fair or reasonable” reason for the delay in them receiving the monies due. Hickey stated that players are currently compliant with the rules and the feedback from players is wholly opposed to the idea of home drug-testing.
He opened: “Sport Ireland is withholding the payment of the 2017 and future State grants unless GPA members sign up to a range of new measures including the provision of home address for home drug testing.
“As currently stated in the Sport Ireland anti doping rules, only a limited number of athletes on a Registered Testing Pool are subject to home testing. Should the GPA agree to these new terms, all inter county players would be subject to home testing which, in our view is a wholly unreasonable demand on amateur athletes.
“We have in recent weeks consulted with you the player base through our Player Engagement Officers on this issue and the feedback from across the country has been overwhelmingly against at home testing. We have communicated this back to Sport Ireland and requested that they immediately release the 2017 grants and engage with us to agree a way to move the clean sport agenda forward - an issue that we are all passionate about.”
Hickey underlined the GPA’s support for clean sport, “as demonstrated by you, our members, full cooperation with blood testing in and out of competition since 2016. GPA members are among the most tested athletes in Sport Ireland's National Testing Programme, yet to date only two positive tests have been recorded against inter county players since testing began in 2001.
“To us it is unfathomable why Sport Ireland consider these new measures to be necessary and why at the 11th hour they are linking them to the payment of State grants without any prior agreement with us on the issue.
“GPA members are in full compliance with and supportive of current Sport Ireland anti-doping rules. Members were fully compliant with the Sport Ireland anti-doping rules in 2017 yet your funding linked to the 2017 championship is now being withheld by Sport Ireland and we believe that this is neither fair nor reasonable. We believe that Sport Ireland have no basis for withholding the grants.”
Hickey underlined the importance of the grant particularly to those players without incomes. “We have asked Sport Ireland to immediately pay the 2017 grants to our members. We know that hundreds of our members who are third level students are currently finishing their final exams have little or no source of income as many do not have time for part time employment due to their playing and college commitments and so they depend heavily on these grants.
“We have told Sport Ireland that the 2017 grants must be paid and that we will continue to engage with them with a view to agreeing the most efficient way to move the clean sport agenda forward. Withholding funding for expenses already incurred by our members in 2017 is unacceptable.
“We will continue to strenuously pursue this matter with Sport Ireland on your behalf as a matter of urgency with a view to having the 2017 grants released without further delay. We are very aware of how urgent this matter is for our membership and please know that we are treating it as a top priority.”