Sport Ireland will lobby to have loophole closed

Sport Ireland Chief Executive John Treacy says the body will lobby WADA to close the appeal loophole that allowed Brendan O’Sullivan, the Kerry GAA footballer who failed an anti-doping test last year, to play for seven months in the middle of his ban.

O’Sullivan was banned for 21 weeks in May 2016, following a positive test for the stimulant methylhexaneamine (MHA), which is found in supplements.

He was provisionally suspended at the discretion of Sport Ireland, on May 13, but returned to the field 11 weeks later following an appeal.

His violation was deemed to involve a ‘Specified substance’, meaning the athlete is ‘more likely to have credible explanation not related to intention doping’, and so his suspension was lifted by the disciplinary panel on July 28, 2016.

O’Sullivan completed the remaining ten weeks of his suspension on February 26, 2017, seven months after his initial sanction was handed down.

“I would imagine that when we are reviewing the World Anti-Doping Agency code the next time we will be raising that point,” Treacy said.

“The point is very valid that if you lift the provisional [suspension] you’ve then no motive to get the case heard.

“I think the issue around Brendan O’Sullivan was the provisional suspension being lifted.

“That was the real issue that the media didn’t understand...because it was appealed.

“That was the fundamental question and the media also said: ‘Oh, how did that happen’?

“It is allowed under the rules. It was applied under the rules and we had no choice. It’s the same for every sport.”

O’Sullivan is the most high profile case in the past year, with Sport Ireland conducting 1003 tests in 2016 alone. Athletics Ireland, Cycling Ireland and the Irish Rugby Football Union make up the bulk of those tests, with just 105 conducted across the GAA, Camogie and Ladies Gaelic Football codes. The GAA did not conduct any ‘user pay’ testing last year – where the governing body pay Sport Ireland to conduct testing, in contrast with the 195 tests paid for by the IRFU, EPCR, World Rugby and Six Nations organisers.

Treacy praised the GAA’s anti-doping education programme, but left the door open for the association should they wish to conduct User Pay testing.

“We are open for business if an NGB wished to us the User Pay system and we would welcome it,” Treacy said.

“But in saying that GAA is not a high risk sport in our view but we are open for business.”

Treacy admits the ‘low risk’ assessment is a subjective one, but pointed to global patterns that display a link between doping and financial incentives as key to their judgement, as well as their own testing.

“I think worldwide if you look at positive tests it always correlates to money in the sport,” he said. If you look at rowing, because there’s not much money in it or because there hasn’t been much money in it – they are not millionaires – you would have very little positive tests in rowing. It’s the nature of the sport.

“So we do regard the GAA as a low risk sport, and in terms of the education programme they have put in place this year, it is excellent. Their workshops and the education they have done around the country is second to none and done very, very well and is welcomed by us.”


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