Manus Boyle column: Big drug debate needed in GAA family

Manus Boyle column: Big drug debate needed in GAA family

Much has been written about Brendan O’Sullivan, the young Kerry footballer, that was named recently as the player who failed a drug test.

He served a suspension of seven months for the failed test but there were many serious questions that were left unanswered by the relevant authorities. One of them was why did it take 13 months to discover the reason for the failed test.

Why was the player told over the ‘phone that he had failed a test and, by the way, you’re banned for four years under the WADA rules, the world anti-doping authority? No further information, or any other chat, just you’re suspended, deal with it.

O’Sullivan rang the Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice and told him what had happened. He told him where the problem might have arisen and at no time did he hide anything from the authorities.

There was a process in place in terms of appeals and retesting. The player and the Kerry county board at all times, we are told, co-operated, but were extremely unhappy at the report to Sport Ireland being leaked to the press. They wanted to know why, and who leaked it? Which, to be fair, are fair questions but like most of our State-run bodies, answers are slow coming and maybe they may never receive any.

O’Sullivan has served his ban and is back in the Kerry squad for the Munster championship encounter with Clare. However, for a young lad it has been a turbulent year and a bit and something that the GAA have to get on top off. Yes there has to be drug tests; yes there is a process when things go wrong but why does it take over a year?

O’Sullivan is an amateur athlete, who has to make a living after his college life is over. Something like being called a drug cheat can follow you for a long time and people could turn their back on someone labelled in such a manner. Very few people would look into what happened and see how easily a young player’s reputation could be tarnished by the simplest mistake.

I have no doubt that O’Sullivan is being more that honest but it does beg the question why would a young, fit lad feel the need to take a supplement or anything else to get to a level of fitness that is good enough to play inter county football?

The player was on nine products, Augmentin, Whey Protein, Pharmaton, Pre-fuel, Caffeine Tablets, Caffeine Gel, Vitamin C, Krill Oil and Magnesium. The caffeine gel, the Pre-fuel and the Pharmaton had been provided by the Kerry nutritionist and he had taken Vitamin C, Krill Oil and Magnesium on his own account. There is nothing wrong with taking any of the above products but where is all this going to end up?

Where does it stop and at what age do managers intend on introducing players to these products? What happens to the player when he finishes his intercounty career and his body must cope without these products? Who is responsible then?

Can we say for certain that there will be no after effects to taking this sort of stuff when the player’s career is over? These are questions that should be answered long before players are asked to take anything.

What people might forget, while there is no pressure to take anything, when the management have such things in place there is a certain expectation that the player coming into a squad fully integrates into the group and generally they will do anything without considering the long-term effects just to conform.

Then there is the question at what age should such products be introduced? It would be naïve for anyone to believe that young lads would not be aware of these products and indeed if you look at some of the strength and conditioning programmes that are being introduced to underage team sports it would not be surprising to hear that products such as those that many of the senior players are taking are being consumed by our up and coming stars.

There are so many unanswered questions around this area that it would be important that those involved, both those playing and those responsible for looking after the welfare of the players, are educated in such matters and in the case of underage players, their parents need to educate themselves to make sure that young lads are cared for properly, both on and off the field.

DOWN AND ARMAGH LIFT SPIRITS

After another weekend of one-sided games in the Leinster championship, it was left to Down and Armagh to lift the spirits. Both sides have had a lean time in the last few years and with both counties finding it hard to make a breakthrough this was a great opportunity to break their duck.

Down started well but were lucky not to concede a few more goals in what was the best half of football to date in this year’s championship. The second half, however, did not live up to the first 35 minutes and both teams went back to the usual tactics that we have come to expect. The referee lost a bit of control with players flying into tackles, players in possession of the ball being surrounded and being blown for over carrying and discipline being lost on both sides.

At the end, with Armagh going for goal, the Down players dragged down any player going through. Yes, there was a black card or two but they were meaningless and again questions about the effect of the black card have risen once again.

At the end there was a mass brawl; the outcome, four yellow cards. Yet, question a linesman, you get twelve weeks; take the head of an opponent, yellow card. Do you wonder why we’re all cynics?