Tyrone star Sean Cavanagh and Off the Ball's Colm Parkinson give their thoughts on drug testing in the GAA and whether doping is prevalent within the game
Tyrone footballer Sean Cavanagh insists that there isn't an issue with testing for doping in the GAA, but that in certain instances timing can be a problem.
Last December the GAA’s Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee (MSW) confirmed it would conduct blood testing for the first time in 2016, as Sport Ireland rolls out a series of new measures to tackle doping in the GAA.
Speaking to The Independent.ie about the testing system, he said that there would be times he would not be tested and others where testers from Sport Ireland would bring him in multiple times during the year to take samples.
“The way in which the testing is done can be an issue at times. Last year we played Sligo here and my younger brother, Colm, and Peter Harte were tested.
“As a team, we went to the Regency (Hotel) and got a bite to eat. We were waiting on them to finish up. I think there was a game after us, Donegal playing someone (Galway) afterwards.
“But we were up the road at maybe 8 or 9 that night and Peter and Colm were still sitting here (in Croke Park) waiting to give their samples.
“We’ve seen it at training on a Tuesday night, an hour from home and guys are sitting at a quarter to twelve at night waiting to give their sample, when they have to get up for work the next morning at seven o’clock.
“As amateur players, sometimes that can be quite frustrating. From what I believe, they’re bringing in the blood testing now. We’re being told it’s blood testing as well as urine testing.
“I wouldn’t have a problem with the blood testing, it’s the time which can be very frustrating for players.
“But look, if you were to tell me that the blood testing could be done instead of the urine testing, and it could be done in 10 seconds, I’d say most players would be happy enough to do that.
“It’s a timing issue sometimes, that can cause an issue.”
As one of the longest serving GAA players in the country, Cavanagh revealed how often he had been tested.
“I’d say probably on average once a season. There’s certain seasons I’ve been tested three or four times.
“Some seasons you might get lucky enough and not be tested but I’d say I’ve been tested 10, 15 times.”
Asked to clarify whether or not he believes there is a culture of doping in the GAA he responded; "I'd say there's probably a reasonable chance that some guys are maybe."
Sean Cavanagh under pressure from Monaghan's Kieran Duffy, Ryan Wylie and Dermot Malone. Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan.
Last year, Monaghan footballer Thomas Connolly was given a two-year ban after testing positive for anabolic steroids.
"I suppose there's that much available in terms of supplements and a lot of guys just aren't educated enough to know what they can and can't take. There's that many things on the internet that are saying 'batch tested' and what not but it's a complete minefield at the moment."
"I'm not all that into it. I'm still stuck in the Tracker bar and Jaffa Cake era, 10 years ago!
"Look, some guys are hugely into it nowadays so I'd say there probably is a chance, whether purposely or not, that there probably are guys that are playing that have something in the system that shouldn't be there. That's just a fact of life."
Speaking to Jonathan Healy on Newstalk Lunchtime, Colm Parkinson added to these sentiments.
"Maybe in the off season [some inter-county players might take illegal drugs], when you look at the drink bans and when you see how many players aren't allowed out at weekends.
"You'd be surprised if they had time to take recreational drugs during the season".
The former Laois footballer said in relation to supplements; "I've never been tested throughout my career. I think the testing came in in 2002/03 and I finished in 2011.
"I saw teammates being tested and I think the threat of the testing and the threat of testers arriving at your training session is enough of a deterrent to try anything during the season.
"I don't think that there is a culture of supplement use outside of the scope of what's allowed. When I was with Laois, players were terrified of taking cough medicine, they were worried when they went to the chemist.
"It was regulated what we took, we took a certain protein shake that was cleared by our doctor and that was the culture there".
You can listen to the full interview below.