Dessie Farrell: Only the elite players are being drug tested
Dublin players tested three or four times this year - McCarthy
LESS than half of all inter-county GAA panels were drug tested in 2014, with the Irish Sports Council targeting only the most high-profile football and hurling squads.
A total of 23 county panels were chosen by testers last year out of a total of 68, with a heavy emphasis on those contesting the latter parts of the All-Ireland senior football and hurling championships.
"When you analyse who's been tested currently, it's the very, very top squads," explained GPA chief executive, Dessie Farrell.
"So we have maybe 67 or 68 squads competing in the championship throughout the different levels.
"There are only 23 of those who were tested last year. It's an issue only for the elite level players."
However, Farrell contends that the figure is "significant".
"When you do the sums on it. If there are 23 squads, that's 700 players. That a one-in-seven or one-in-eight ratio. That's significant.
"You could make the point that elite level GAA players are highly tested. That the frequency of testing is quite high.
"That can be very positive for the sport. There is the philosophical issue of keeping our sports clean.
"Can you overstep the mark? Some players will say you can. Other players will say 'definitely not because I want to ensure in Croke Park when I walk out, that everyone is competing on the same playing field'."
Speaking also at yesterday's Cúl Heroes official trading card of the GAA/GPA launch, Dublin footballer James McCarthy explained that he has never been tested in his five years as an inter-county footballer but revealed that teammates had been "three or four times this year," most recently after their League final win over Cork in Croke Park.
According to the 'What Happens In a Drug Test,' section of the Irish Council's website, "The athlete may be randomly selected or it may be a targeted test."
"We'd have a fair idea and if you had any doubts you'd go to the doctor," said the Ballymun Kickhams player.
"I remember we got given these little books on what you couldn't take. But yeah, we'd be pretty well versed.
"It could be an issue for say younger players. They should definitely get a crash course or something like that to make sure."
McCarthy, who is asthmatic and uses a preventative inhaler, reckons he is "pretty well versed," in what he can and cannot take.
He stressed he would be "very surprised," if doping was widespread or even commonplace amongst inter-county players and said he hadn't personally heard private accusations about opposition players.
"The way it is going there might be a bit more pressure on fellas to break through and they might try it," he pointed out, "but I don't see it as a problem really."
Farrell, meanwhile, said it was "quite remarkable," that it had taken so long for a first positive test in the GAA, reiterating the opinion of ISC Anti-Doping Manager, Dr Úna May, that the GAA remained "low risk," despite the recent positive test from a fringe Monaghan footballer, which emerged last weekend.
"Right from the get-go we have always spoken of the importance of being vigilant event though we never believed it to be an issue," Farrell stressed. "There was that whole concern not to be complacent about this issue and we wanted to do all we can to educate the players and inform the players.
"And that all the stakeholders involved are up to speed with the potential for performance enhancing drugs to be introduced to the sport at some point.
"It has been a long, long time since we were first making those statements but there was probably a degree of inevitability that a case would emerge some where along the journey."
Similarly, GAA players are tested for recreational drugs in line with the World Anti-Doping Agency's policies.
"There is a much wider issue across global sports about the use of recreational drugs and testing for those because they are not performance enhancing," Farrell explained.
"There is strong arguments being made as to why they are being included in any anti-doping protocols and why are WADA insisting on continuing to test for those products.
"That is a bigger debate in the world of sport around that particular issue for our own players as well.
"I would be comfortable in saying that for the vast, vast majority of players it does not enter their consciousness.
"Would that mean that there would be one or two players who are out there that would be tempted? Of course, it would mean that, you would imagine that would be the case.
"It is different if you are 28 or 29 and you are a part of elite sport in the GAA," Farrell continued.
"There is a culture around anti-doping and players are familiar with it, but it is a whole different ball game for new players," concluded the GPA chief-executive.
The way it is going there might be a bit more pressure on fellas to break through and they
might try it.