GAA stars risking health with supplement use says Mick McGurn
Mick McGurn, Armagh and Antrim's former strength and conditioning coach who also had a spell with Ireland Rugby, has warned against the use of supplements in the GAA, stating they are of no benefit to amateur sportsmen and serve only to create the risk of a heart attack.
The Fermanagh man has worked with several teams in a professional environment and offers a compelling argument for a blanket ban on all supplements within the GAA in the wake of revelations concerning Kerry player Brendan O'Sullivan, who ingested the banned stimulant Methylhexaneamine and was subsequently suspended.
He also urged the GAA to take a more pro-active role in the explanation of future issues.
"Basically, what he (O'Sullivan) took was a stimulant. If you don't come out quick enough then people will say it was steroids," McGurn warned.
"The stimulant gives you a central nervous system arousal. You fatigue less and you have more endurance, and you actually get a by-product of burning body fat if you take it over a prolonged period of time.
"It's just a way of manipulating your body by taking chemicals and that's probably where the crux is. The chemical that he took in that particular product, it wasn't natural, so there is an element there of (potential damage to) the kidneys, liver and blood. That's why WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) is so cognisant of it and are trying to ban it, because long-term your kidneys, your liver could all pack in."
McGurn said such products carry a severe danger. He commented: "If you raise your heart rate not through natural means, say exercise or resistance training, but through a supplement, you create the environment for a heart attack. Your heart is still pumping a lot to get the blood around but the muscles haven't worked to get the heart pumping."
In all his time involved in training GAA teams, including the Irish International Rules side, he did not recommend the use of supplements, believing them to be unsuitable for amateur athletes.
"Around 99.5% of the supplements bought and ingested don't work. The reason why it doesn't work is that supplements will only work when you have an environment in which you are getting nine hours of sleep a night, you are drinking four to five litres of water a day, you are eating five or six quality meals with all your vitamins and nutrients and you are possibly getting a bit of a rest in the afternoon," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"Then your body is conducive to taking supplements because it is a positive environment.
"If you are not doing all of that, no matter what you take, it won't compensate for not doing the other parts. It's just wasted."
His role as the strength and conditioning coach with the Ireland rugby team under Eddie O'Sullivan was the only suitable environment that McGurn has worked in that players could benefit from the use of supplements.
He cited the example of Paul O'Connell and explained: "O'Connell is what we call a 'hard gainer'. He always played around 111kg. If he didn't eat 7,500 calories a day, he used to drop down to 109kg.
"So, Paulie had to eat six meals a day, drink all the water, get off his feet, and then on top of that he would take three protein shakes a day.
"It's almost like you have to be obsessed by it; go to bed at 10 o'clock, get up at half seven, drink a litre of water then, take so many grams of protein for breakfast, such and such for lunch…
"How can an amateur GAA player even get close to that regime? There's not a chance in hell."