Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 April 2015

GAA stars will have to give blood samples

Gaelic's stars are currently subjected to urine testing, but 10 years after establishing its world-leading anti-doping programme, the Irish Sports Council (ISC) has revealed that it is rolling out blood testing for all Irish sports in the next year.

And GAA players will not be able to escape it, despite their amateur status.

Some elements of the GAA were against drug-testing when they first signed up for it in 2002, but the association had no choice as it was mandatory in order to access government funding.

GAA players are only tested after matches, or at training and are not subjected to any random testing outside team training or games.

Yet there were still some initial teething problems when players raised complaints.

Some initially even refused to sit tests, which, technically, is the equivalent of failing one, but the ISC took a softly-softly approach until it was fully established and now describes the GAA as "totally on board" with their current drug-testing regime.

The notion of players now facing mandatory blood-testing will attract further opposition, even though the Sports Council argue that it is, in some ways, even less problematic.

The ISC stressed yesterday that they will initially prioritise "high risk sports" which means GAA players are unlikely to face blood testing until next year at the earliest.

"It (blood-testing) is in the early stages and I don't expect it for the GAA this year but I don't see why the GAA should have a problem with it," said Dr Una May, the ISC'S Director of Anti-Doping.

"Their players have always been very supportive of our work and will probably find that blood tests are less intrusive."

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