Éamonn Fitzmaurice had to google the meaning of ‘polypharmacy’ when Sport Ireland published its full and final findings into the Brendan O’Sullivan anti- doping violation.
So he fully understands some GAA followers struggling to keep up with football and hurling’s new lexicon of supplements and gels.
However, he believes that supplements get an unfair rap. “It’s become a dirty word, like there’s some sort of negative connotation attached. A supplement is as it sounds, it’s an add-on, not a replacement, in someone’s diet.
“Kerry has a food-first motto, ie, the players get their nutrition from food as much as they possibly can. However, because of the nature of how hard and when they train, sometimes they are advised on supplements they can take if they wish to aid their nutrition.
“For example, after a gym session where they’ve expended a lot of energy, the players will have a protein shake or a bar to get as much protein into their system as quickly as possible. If they were to be eating the amount of chicken, fish, and other foods they need to refuel, they’d be eating a huge amount of food every day to get the requisite calories in. I know that’s what WADA advise, but in the real world, particularly for people that are working, it’s very hard to eat that amount of food and calories. The supplement comes in as an add-on.
“Every one of those supplements has to be certified by InForm Sport, which guarantees there are no contaminated substances present.
“Every player would be so advised and entitled to take this stuff which is perfectly legal, and there’s never been a problem.
“Brendan’s mistake was that he went and got something from outside the set-up and took it without seeking the advice of (nutritionist) Kevin Beasley or our doctor. We alerted the players since this thing became a problem. We obviously advised them: You don’t take anything except what comes from inside the camp, and if you are about to take anything, please consult the nutritionist or the doctor.”
Fitzmaurice also shone a light on the role of oft-mentioned nutrition expert Beasley, whom he underlined was a volunteer.
“And this isn’t the usual GAA cloak and dagger volunteer — he’s a volunteer, as is everyone in our set-up bar our medical staff. The doctors are also volunteers, the physios are the only ones that are paid. Kevin is at training every night. We were away on camp last week, he was working all day while we were training and in the evenings he had the younger members of the squad in a chalet teaching them how to cook food. That’s the level he goes to.”
Fitzmaurice also revealed: “To show you how careful he is with regard to these products, last year prior to playing Monaghan in a league game in Clones, our supplier hadn’t managed to get the caffeine gels to us on time. So one of the county board lads, trying to help out, went off and bought a supply of the caffeine gels over the counter in a shop and gave them to Kevin. He wouldn’t use them because they didn’t have the proper certification, and he wouldn’t take the risk. My point is, that’s how careful he is with everything the lads take.”
Fitzmaurice said his playing days were “the stone age” compared to the physical demands placed on the modern day footballer.
“It’s the whole move towards professionalism. Things move on, just like the blanket defence. That’s progress, for good or for bad, that’s what happens, things develop, things change. The game has changed on the pitch, never mind anywhere else, so much since I took over in 2013. “When I was playing is the stone age in comparison to what’s going on now.“
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