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McConville in doping warning to GAA stars

By John Campbell

Armagh's All-Ireland winning star Oisin McConville today underlines a stark message to players not to indulge in banned substances in a bid to enhance their playing careers.

McConville's warning is issued as the GAA comes to terms with the fact that Monaghan county squad member Thomas Connolly must serve a two-year ban having been found guilty of using a banned substance earlier this year.

There are fears within the Association that because of the enhanced levels of conditioning and fitness which county players in particular are expected to attain, some of those striving to make it onto inter-county panels might be tempted to avail of substances which are prohibited.

But it has now come to light that ALL players are subject to random tests in relation to the use of banned substances.

And it may well be that such tests could now be stepped up.

"There is undoubtedly more pressure on players now who are seeking to improve their chances of making it at inter-county level," points out McConville.

"It is known that some substances can play a part in things like speeding up recovery and other elements of participation in games but the temptation to avail of these must always be resisted."

"I know it can be extremely difficult for some players to meet the standards set by their peers but to go outside the normal levels of preparation and medicinal aids can be highly dangerous."

The Gaelic Players Association makes it clear, however, that the tests carried out by the Irish Sports Council are all-embracing.

A statement from the Association says: "Thomas Connolly was a triallist with the Monaghan county squad at the time he underwent out-of-competition testing. An argument advanced on Thomas's behalf at his hearing was that his status as a trial player brought him outside the Irish Sports Council's jurisdiction to test.

"The Tribunal, however, determined that all players at all levels and all age groups within the GAA are subject to the ISC jurisdiction to test. Throughout the investigation and hearing, the GPA has provided the player with personal and professional support and will continue to do so notwithstanding that he is not a member of the players' body."

The GPA adds that Thomas Connolly and his family should be accorded privacy "at this difficult time"

McConville, who currently manages Crossmaglen Rangers in tandem with his 2002 Armagh All-Ireland winning colleague John McEntee, believes that gaelic games offer the ideal recreational outlet and stresses that zero-tolerance is the only way forward in terms of combating the use of banned substances.

"I think it is most encouraging that the GAA itself and the Irish Sports Council are displaying a zero-tolerance approach to the use of banned substances," says McConville.

"While it is very unfortunate that someone like Thomas Connolly should now have to face a two-year ban, I think the authorities' desire to honour their duty of care to players is to be warmly welcomed.

"They are obviously determined to take all possible steps to prevent the use of banned substances and that can only benefit individuals and the sport itself in the long run."

"Obtaining seeking clarity on the viability of substances and medications before they are used must be a priority for players at every level."

McConville acknowledges, though, that although the GAA adheres to its amateur ethos, high-profile players generally do well in their business and professional lives.

"It's certainly never to a player's disadvantage to attain a high status out on the park as this can transmit itself to other areas of their lives," maintains McConville, "But they must always seek to achieve this by the proper methods.

Belfast Telegraph


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