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Kerry footballer at heart of first drugs controversy to hit the GAA

A leading Kerry footballer has tested positive for the use of the banned drug Salbutamol.

Salbutamol is a widely-used treatment for asthma, taken through an inhaler but players are only allowed to take the drug under strictly controlled guidelines.

Ireland rugby player Frankie Sheahan had a similar problem with Salbutamol five years ago and was initially given a two-year ban.

But that was reduced to three months on appeal when the Munster hooker claimed he had forgotten to properly inform the authorities that he was using a Ventolin inhaler to combat his asthma. The solicitor who represented Sheahan, Paul Derham, a former Munster rugby player, has been advising the Kerry footballer since he was informed last week that a test he underwent after this year's All-Ireland final against Tyrone had thrown up "an adverse analytical finding" for Salbutamol.

The player, who has been provisionally suspended pending an imminent hearing, is a known asthmatic and was reported to be suffering from flu symptoms in the pre-match build-up.

This is the first positive test for a Gaelic player since the GAA signed up to the Irish Sports Council's (ISC) anti-doping programme in 2001.

And it coincides with the likely introduction of even stricter anti-doping regulations for asthmatic players.

There is already a hot debate internationally about whether inhalers – or 'broncho-dilators' – can actually enhance performance, but the World Anti-Doping Agency believes so.

All top athletes who need to use asthma inhalers – and Ireland reportedly has the fifth-highest rate of teenage asthma in the world – are currently allowed to use them once they have an exemption, based on the written evidence of the doctor who writes their prescription.

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