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'The buck has to stop with the player' | Niall Moyna on doping in GAA

Thom Malone
Thom Malone

22:01 29 Apr 2020

Professor Niall Moyna of DCU joined Joe Molloy on Off The Ball to discuss the doping and supplements situation in the GAA.

Moyna's appearance on the show followed the doping ban issued to Carlow footballer Ray Walker earlier in the week.

With three positive tests, Moyna was asked how prevalent he feels the problem of doping is in the GAA.

"We like to think we are angels, says Moyna of the GAA, "but we live in a modern world where these substances can be gotten online.

"We know from the most recent ESRI study that a lot of players are actually doing this, which beggars belief. The rewards are much greater now, even in an amateur sport than they were in previous generations."

Highly qualified people

The situation in the GAA has improved markedly due to the quality of professionals working with inter-county teams, according to Professor Moyna.

"There would be a lot of highly-qualified people, particularly with nutritional backgrounds, working with inter-county teams," says Moyna, "so the cowboys and cowgirls of the past, there are very few of them around.

"All of these people have reputations and I don't think these people would put their reputations on the line to win a National League game or a Championship game. I just don't think that would happen."

While Moyna is complimentary of what the GAA has done, Moyna believes there are limits to what the organisation can control.

It was put to the DCU academic that a quarter of inter-county players are sourcing their supplements on the internet according to the ESRI report from last year 'Safeguarding Amateur Athletes.'

"The GAA, for the most part, is mirroring what is happening in society. It's a multi-billion dollar supplements industry, that is, for the most part, unregulated," says Moyna, "that's one of the big issues.

"I sit on the medical welfare committee. In the January, February, March, April meetings every year we spend a half-hour going through how many counties have done the education programme.

"We look at how many players have (completed it) because it's supposed to be done by the 31st May.

"So there are workshops, they can go online and do it. What more can the GAA do?

"Now I think county secretaries are overworked and, to be fair to Paul Flynn and the GPA, they are pushing this very hard as well."

The buck has to stop with the individual player

There is an issue with resourcing the doping control programme according to Moyna.

"At the end of the day it's an amateur sport and we don't have the resources to go taking a blood sample or to investigate every single player on every team to find out what they are eating 24/7.

"At some stage, the buck has to stop with the individual player. Individual players are, I think, probably making decisions that 90% of players think they are taking them because they are good for them.

"They hear other people are taking it. There's probably a small percentage who think 'I"m going to find something that's going to give me the edge and I'm not going to tell any of the backroom team about it' and really what can a backroom team do there?

"All you can do it your best, we don't have the resources to be doing random blood checks on our amateur players so it's a difficult one.

"To be fair to the GAA, from the moment Sport Ireland initiated the whole drug policy, the GAA totally bought into it."

The three doping violations is "too many" according to Moyna, but he feels it's crucial to maintain severe punishments as a deterrent.

"Yes three (adverse findings) is too many" says Moyna, "and I think if the word gets out there that it's lax, before you know it, it's ten, it's 15.

"With the current regime that's out there, I think we're doing pretty good. Would we like to see zero? Yes, we would."

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