Players may face matchday blood tests

The Irish Sports Council’s Director of Anti-Doping has not ruled out blood testing GAA players on matchdays.

Dr Una May admitted it is the Irish Sports Council’s preference blood testing be conducted out of competition next year, but said the provision of blood samples on the day of a game remains a possibility.

Dr May was responding to concerns expressed by Brendan Maher, the Tipperary hurling captain opposed to providing a blood sample on matchday.

Maher believes the practice would be “draining”, but Dr May insists the required three to five millilitres would not impact a player.

No blood samples will be sought prior to a game, the Irish Sports Council official added.

“It is only a small amount. It is not like they are going to donate blood to the blood bank,” she remarked.

“The reality is it is such a small amount that it would not impact on a person.

“Our priority is that it will be primarily out of competition testing, but we are not ruling out in competition testing. It all depends on the variables and what you would be analysing the blood for. That is all part of the fine-tuning still to take place.

“Testing before or after training is something we will discuss with the GAA. What we try and do with our out of competition testing is to try not to impact on training as much as possible.

“We are taking a whole year to prepare and build up to the introduction of blood testing within the GAA. There will be plenty of lead in time for players to be aware of the issues, to be properly informed.”

Former Mayo footballer Kevin McStay supports the GAA’s move towards a more stringent anti-doping programme as it will “cut out any dabbling” by players.

“If you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear,” he said of the introduction of blood testing in 2016.

“I would not agree players should be getting any tax breaks for taking a blood test because it’s only a tiny blood prick. If it would cut out any kind of dabbling that was going on, that would only be a very positive development.

“It’s a very modest price to pay for integrity and transparency in our sport, to stay back 20 minutes after a game and give a sample.”

McStay is adamant the temptation is there for inter-county players to take performances-enhancing substances.

“If you look at the teams that are on the fringe of success, and I am not for a minute suggesting that they would, but you would only be human if it went through your mind, especially in an era when the testing was only a urine test.

“Let’s face it, over a few beers I often heard fellows say I wonder is such a team or so and so having something to give them that edge and you would say no, it’s not the case, because we are still amateurs and it’s all for the love of the jersey and all that. But over the last eight or nine years, in terms of sports science, things have moved on at pace. I think we are very close in terms of conditioning to reaching that bar when the teams are still essentially amateur.”

He continued: “I would like to think that players are not taking performance-enhancing substances. I would like to think that the incident up in Monaghan is an isolated one. I would feel sorry for this lad, I really would, if somehow or other, to make a panel or make a team or fulfil his dream of playing county for Monaghan, that he would be tempted. It is a lonely place and I would not like to be that soldier.”


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