GAA to carry out blood testing in new anti-doping drive

2016 is set to be another landmark year in the history of the GAA, after it was confirmed yesterday that blood testing would be carried out in the association for the very first time.

Speaking at the announcement of the Irish Sports Council Anti-Doping Annual Review for 2014 in the Royal College of Physicians, the chief executive of the Sports Council, John Treacy, also revealed that they would be working on an education programme with the GAA in the coming months.

With unsuccessful attempts at testing team sports decreasing by 29%, Treacy is certainly encouraged by the level of cooperation they are receiving from the governing bodies of sport.

“Yes, it is [encouraging]. It’s good to see that and we will be carrying out blood testing with the GAA in 2016. We’re going to roll out an education programme with them in 2015,” Treacy remarked.

From the 10 unsuccessful attempts on team sports, five of them involved inter-county GAA teams, but it is the level of testing in rugby that is one of the more significant developments during the past 12 months.

With a total of 102 tests conducted by the sports council under their anti-doping programme, they have now overtaken the GAA as the third most tested sport in Ireland. Athletics and cycling continue to occupy the top-two positions in this table, with a combined tally of 393 tests between the two sports.

However, with 32 sports coming under scrutiny in this review, Dr Una May (the Irish Sports Council’s Director of Ethics & Participation) is fully aware that testing is required in all areas, so that all athletes know that there is a risk of them being tested at some point in the future.

“It’s not only the big sports, and we aren’t only focussed on the big sports. We focus our testing very much. We have a very clear distribution plan based on scientific information about what the risks are in different sports, what the potential substances are that might be taken in certain sports. What sort of times a year, and when in the lead ups to competitions athletes will take stuff,” Dr May said.

“It is important to make sure that athletes in all sports realise that there is a risk of being tested and therefore taking drugs is not worth that risk.”

The review also highlighted that the National Testing Programme had increased by 186 tests to 1,054 (an increase of 18%), while blood testing figures also rose by 31%. Out of competition testing accounted for 75% of the programme’s tests, as this is generally accepted as being a more effective method than in competition testing. The launch of a Whereabouts Mobile App has also proven to be beneficial for Registered Testing Pool (RTP) Athletes, with 35% of the whereabouts submissions provided through this website-based app.

In addition to the findings of this review, a new Report Doping online submission form was also unveiled at yesterday’s announcement. This initiative (which is now available through the Irish Sports Council website) offers a safe and secure way for the public to report matters relating to drugs in sport.


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