Brendan O’Sullivan anti-doping violation down to ‘complete bad luck’

The Kerry footballer at the centre of an anti-doping rule violation served a 21-week ban from the game because he didn’t like the taste of caffeine gels, which boost energy, sources close to the controversy have indicated.

Midfielder Brendan O’Sullivan was so convinced of his innocence in the case he twice appealed proposed bans from Sport Ireland and the GAA’s Anti-Doping committee.

Sport Ireland confirmed yesterday it has sanctioned the Valentia man for an anti- doping rule violation, but accepted the player “bore no significant fault or negligence” for the infraction.

O’Sullivan ended up serving half the 21-week ban last year, and the remaining 10 weeks after appearing for Kerry in their 2017 League opener in Donegal last February. It was split into two phases after the initial ban was suspended on appeal.

It is understood a series of improbable coincidences and circumstances led to O’Sullivan testing positive for an infraction of anti-doping rules after Kerry’s Allianz League final defeat to Dublin in April 2016.

But it also underlines the complexity of such stringent regulations and the necessity to process such matters through specialists attached to teams. How details of the case are only emerging now is a mystery and a source of concern to O’Sullivan, and those close to him.

Sport Ireland issued a statement yesterday after Kerry GAA confirmed O’Sullivan was the player referred to in a Sunday Independent story regarding a breach of anti- doping regulations.

It is believed O’Sullivan sought an alternative tablet form to the caffeine gels his Kerry colleagues were taking, and made the mistake of sourcing the product over the counter from a health store.

He was unfortunate that the particular batch he bought was found in subsequent testing to be contaminated.

He has acknowledged his “rookie error” with regard to not going through Kerry team nutritionist Kevin Beasley or team medic, Dr Mike Finnerty.

“If Brendan is guilty of anything it is not taking due care and attention and going through the proper channels,” confirmed a source familiar with the case. “He is a victim of complete bad luck.”

O’Sullivan was banned for 21 weeks in total for testing positive for the stimulant methylhexaneamine (MHA), which is found in supplements and energy drinks.

It was added to WADA’s banned substances list in 2009. The Kerry player accepted he committed an anti-doping rule violation and engaged in a consultation process with Sport Ireland under the Irish Anti-Doping Rules regarding the sanction to be imposed on him.

“Sport Ireland accepted it was a contaminated product case, that Mr O’Sullivan bore no significant fault or negligence and reduced the applicable sanction to seven months,” the statement on Monday explained.

Sport Ireland set out the chronology of events, confirming the Kerry midfielder appealed the original sanction and did so again when the matter was referred to the GAA Anti- Doping Committee.

He was suspended from May 13-July 28, 2016, an 11-week period, but this was lifted by the chair of the disciplinary panel because the violation involved a contaminated product.

The remaining 10 weeks of ineligibility commenced on February 26 this year, the date of his last participation in the Kerry panel. O’Sullivan’s most recent appeal of the sanction was on March 16 last to the Irish Sport Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel, which handed down the final 21-week sanction at a March 30 hearing.

The Disciplinary Panel, which is an independent panel of experts from legal, sports administration, and medical backgrounds, confirmed it will provide its reasoned decision shortly, which will be published by Sport Ireland.

In the statement, Sport Ireland advises, tellingly, “there are no guarantees any supplement is safe (free from prohibited substances). If an athlete chooses to consume a supplement Sport Ireland recommends they seek advice from a sports dietician and follow Sport Ireland’s risk minimisation guidelines.”

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