Ciara Mageean: Brendan O’Sullivan case exposes naivety of GAA

Ciara Mageean

International athlete Ciara Mageean has challenged Sport Ireland’s claim that Kerry footballer Brendan O’Sullivan bore “no significant fault” following his positive test for methylhexaneamine last year.

“For an athlete to be like: ‘oh, I didn’t know’, it doesn’t wash with me,” said Mageean.

“Maybe there is a naivety in the GAA where the athletes aren’t aware [of what they are taking], but that’s the responsibility of the GAA to educate their athletes and for athletes to educate themselves.”

O’Sullivan tested positive in April 2016 for the banned stimulant, which Sport Ireland’s reasoned decision said was ingested via the fat-burning supplement Oxyburn Pro Superthermotech.

While Mageean had sympathy for O’Sullivan, who returned to action for the Kerry junior side on Sunday, she believes his case has also exposed double standards in the Irish anti-doping system.

“The fact an athlete served a ban and only then was it brought to light (is strange). If that was my sport, that wouldn’t have been the case,” she said.

“I never like to see an athlete testing positive, you like to think people are clean but you also have to ask: why did you take that?

“It’s a clear line and you have to be so careful. Some people have the attitude, ‘it’s an amateur sport, leave the poor lad be’, but as an athlete I’m responsible for what enters my system and I’m well aware of that.

“My heart does go out to them because you have to be proactive, but if I order a supplement and can’t find for sure that it’s been batch-tested, I send an email to Sport Ireland and ask them if they can help me out. I won’t take something unless I know for sure that it’s clean.”

Mageean has been part of Sport Ireland’s testing pool since the age of 17, which requires her to submit her whereabouts on a daily basis.

The same is not yet required of GAA players, who can only be tested at training sessions or games.

“Even throughout my years of injury when I wasn’t racing, I was still tested,” she said.

“I’m tested five to 10 times a year out-of-competition. People may be amazed how intrusive it can be but as an athlete, I’m willing to offer my whereabouts.

“As a clean athlete, I’m delighted to see the testers coming to the door. You welcome them.”

In her teens, Mageean was a promising camogie player and once represented Ulster in an inter- provincial tournament. Yesterday afternoon in Leixlip, where she was unveiled as brand ambassador for Pop Up Races, she said that the GAA needs to wake up to the threat of doping.

“There’s a reason performance-enhancing drugs are banned and it’s for the health of the athletes, to ensure there’s fair competition for everyone,” she said.

“Hopefully this will bring to light to sports people around the country that you have to be careful.”


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