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Anti-doping stars can stand in class of their own

By Declan Bogue

When you sit down for your weekend of sports viewing, how uncomfortable do you feel about the issue of doping? Does it concern you at all? Perhaps not.

One of the greatest shows on earth - the Super Bowl - took place earlier this month and there were huge question marks raised over Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, with reports that he had been implicated in a doping scenario.

Yet none of the major sports media in America had an appetite to follow it up, let alone question it.

Last week, Sean Cavanagh spoke with his customary intelligence when asked about the possibility of performance-enhancing drugs in the GAA. He put the risk at "probably a great chance now".

His concerns mainly centre around the culture of taking supplements that are marketed to aid recovery. While he belongs to a generation that scoffed down a Tracker bar and slugged some Lucozade before a game, you can walk into many leisure centres and private gyms now and find people hunched over some form of protein powder, making a mixture from a tub bought online.

Nobody can be sure of how many of the mixtures have been tested, or how many have been made in clinical conditions.

Last December, the English national junior champion, Gabriel Evans, admitted to using the blood boosting effects of EPO. Having watched the BBC Panorama documentary 'Catch Me If You Can', he claimed he felt "curious" about the worth of the substance, going as far as to say that it had been "normalised" in some way, as if we had become immune to the threat of doping in cycling.

The really curious thing is that 46-year-old club rider Robin Townsend incurred a four-year ban after testing positive for the stimulant modafinil. He did so in pursuit of his ninth place at January's Burton and District Cycling Alliance 100-mile time trial.

With performance-enhancing drugs becoming so prevalent, there is an opportunity for GAA players to set themselves apart.

They are no more or less than stars of other sports, but with the right education eliminating cases like we had in Monaghan last year when a panel trialist took a banned substance from somebody who wasn't a health professional, the Association has an opportunity to show real virtue.

In doing so, they can lend huge credibility to the anti-doping programmes.

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