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GAA Dope Testing Begins

At Clones on Sunday April 28th , the first doping tests were carried out on senior GAA players. This initiative is a welcome addition in the fight against (to quote consultant Pharmacist Orla Sheehan) "a prairie-fire" sweeping across sporting communities in Ireland. "Surely not in Ireland and not in amateur sports?" You might hear. But don't be fooled: the lure of fame, the desire to conquer, and worst of all the hype and the lack of information mean that, as with other sports, it will only be a matter of time before another athlete tests positive for a banned substance, whether by mistake, or deliberately.

So how can an athlete be sure they're safe? Keeping to a few simple rules, and staying informed are the easiest ways of ensuring a clean body and conscience.

 

Here are a few simple pointers:

* If in doubt..check it out! Athletes should ask their Medical officer, GP, Pharmacist, or log onto www.sports-drugs.com and check if the medicines (or vitamins!) they are taking are permitted in their sport.

* If they get ill, as athletes can do from time to time, consult with a Professional who KNOWS which medicines are safe to take (a list of over-the-counter AND prescription medicines for almost any illness can be printed from the website), and many Pharmacists and GP's are familiar with the banned lists.

* NEVER take supplements with no verification. Vitamin and mineral supplements vary massively in content and purity, and the only sure way of knowing the contents are safe is by taking only products with a Product Licence (PL). This number appears on the side of all medicines licensed by the Irish Medicines Board. If it does not have a PL, the quality and content is less reliable. (Many "body-fuel" and "body-building" supplements have been found in the past to be contaminated or even "doctored" with banned substances like Ephedrine, caffeine, even Anabolic steroids like Nandrolone!

* Don't assume the same product has the same ingredients in another country: even between Ireland and Northern Ireland the same products may have different ingredients! (See article on Lemsip). This has recently been highlighted in the Winter Olympics with the Scottish Athlete Alain Baxter claiming he took a Vick's nasal spray containing a banned Amphetamine. It is ALWAYS safer to take your own medicines with you, and if this is not possible, take only what can be verified by the Medical Officer, or, for example by e-mailing/phoning sports-drugs.com, the IOC, or the Irish Sports Council.

* Ignorance is no excuse. Turning your head, covering your ears, then claiming you weren't told will only worsen any argument. Know the pitfalls: the cold-remedies, "tonics", weight-loss (supposed) products, supplements, high-caffeine drinks

Athletes can be tempted to trade a portion of their life expectancy for a moment of glory, but thankfully testing is catching up on the cheats, and a regular "dope" can expect to test positive. The responsibility is the athlete's, and information is the best protection. Quite simply, the less you take, the less likely you are to take something wrong. Taking pills is a cop-out: if you need supplements, then maybe a good dietitian should be consulted, recommending protein, carbohydrate and even fats according to the type of training being done and at what stage the athlete is at in training.

Sport is magic! We all derive great joy from it and there is a mountain of goodwill towards our heroes who play. We're there to help, and to keep sport…sporting!