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Sun 02-Jul-2000 14:04
More from this writer..
Will the GAA finally take the Piss?
Most GAA fans will probably agree that Dis Great Association of Ours has never been short of a few dopes over the years, An Fear Rua imagines
You need only look at some of the current and recent crops of inter-county referees and team mentors and the mere thought of them is enough to send your eyes rolling heavenwards in quiet despair.
Whatever about dopes in the GAA, doping is another matter entirely, avers An Fear Rua. Ever since the disgraced Olympics swimmer, Michelle Smith-de Bruin, successfully outdid Our Lords matrimonial miracle at Cana of Galilee by allegedly turning water into whiskey doping has become a much more live issue in Irish sport, including the GAA. Of course, its still not clear exactly what type of whiskey was involved in the Michelle incident. AFR hopes that the miracle worked sufficiently well to produce at least a good Twelve Year Old Jameson. Mixed with a dash of champagne, the same Jameson makes a great pick-me-up. It was the favoured drink of the great Waterford-born Young Irelander, Thomas Francis Meagher, and is now the favourite tipple of the beloved Parish Priest of Gowlnacalley, Canon Edward Guiry PP VG.
The Minister for Tourism, Sport, Recreation, Holiday Chalets, Saunas and Whatever-Youre-Having Yourself, former Donegal minor footballer, Jim McDaid, has been leading something of a crusade to eliminate drugtaking in Irish sport. Last year, he announced a £300,000 anti-drugs programme. In this initiative, a genuine Olympian, Waterford-born John Treacy, Chairman of the Council of Sport, ably supports him. Recently, McDaid and Treacy made it clear to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association that they will not get another penny of taxpayers money to send a team to this years Olympics unless they clear up lingering doubts about drug testing procedures at their national championships.
Naturally, with more than half a million playing members, it is a sad but inevitable feature of modern life that the most popular sports in the country those of the GAA would also come under scrutiny in respect of allegations of drug taking. However, for an amateur sports body like the GAA, compulsory dope testing of players is a step fraught with both legal and far more importantly constitutional difficulties. The Constitution of 1937, drafted by a distinguished Waterford-born civil servant, John Hearn, and promulgated by Eamon de Valera, has been interpreted by the courts to give a wide range of protected personal rights to each citizen. These include a right to fairness of procedures. Now, some of AFRs legal friends would argue (though, God help them, most of them wouldnt know one end of a hurley from the other!) that while it might be possible for a sports body to compel a professional player to take a compulsory dope test, the same might not be true in the case of amateurs. While a professional might be taken as moderating their right to fair procedures as part of their contract, no such condition could apply in the case of an amateur.
In An Fear Ruas day, the only stimulant tolerated for inter-county players was a few sips from a hip flask of whiskey at half time, or in the case of Connacht teams, maybe a good drop of poitín. Now, An Fear Rua overhears enough chit chat from some of the boyos of Gowlnacalley-John Redmonds, in the back shnug of Ma Molloys famous drinking emporium, to know that drug taking has arrived on the scene in a big way, even in the quieter parts of rural Ireland. Indeed, one or two of the so-called posh rugby schools have admitted allowing their players to take Creatine as a muscle building substance even though there is widespread debate among sports doctors as to its appropriateness or otherwise. So, while AFR is not entirely happy with the idea, he cannot see how the GAA can continue to resist compulsory, random drug testing at inter-county level for much longer. In the end of the day, Gaelic games must be fair and must be seen to be fair. Unfortunately, undetected, illegal drugs give an unfair advantage to competitors and therefore strike at the very roots of fairness.
At the annual Congress last April, the GAA agreed to drug testing in principle. Since then, considerable progress has been made in drafting detailed regulations and these will be recommended to a Special Congress for adoption in October. If they are to work, the implementation of these regulations will have to be founded on a comprehensive drugs education programme within the Association and will more than likely be followed by the introduction of testing, initially at senior inter-county level. This is not as big a step as it may seem because, already in the North of Ireland, GAA players are subject to in-competition drugs testing by the Northern Ireland Sports Council.
A more widespread introduction of testing may be timely, since a survey of county players carried out by a medical doctor, earlier this year, showed that as many as one out of every two inter-county players interviewed had experimented with Creatine. Most of the players admitted that while they may have got a burst of energy in the short term it didnt make them any better at putting the ball in the net or over the bar. Which just goes to show that, even in this modern era of sports stimulants, thankfully some of the eternal truths of Gaelic games retain their validity.
Its a long way, of course, from a tot of whiskey at half time to compulsory testing for the presence of anabolic steroids, as an example. Hopefully, the horror stories of the effects of these drugs on women athletes, now emerging from the trials of former East German sports officials, will be enough to dissuade at least our camogie players and women footballers to steer well clear of them. After all, a bearded camogie player on a solo run would not be attractive sight, nor would a hirsute footballer stand much chance of winning the Who has the Best Legs? competition recently announced by Bank of Ireland as sponsors of the All Ireland womanise football competition, in conjunction with a Sunday newspaper. Of course, the problem with that proposal is that a male player nominated for the contest might take a case to the European Court on the grounds of discrimination, if the competition is confined to women. In this regard, AFR recalls a story he heard in Cork many years ago when the film Of Human Bondage was making the rounds. For the benefit of his younger readers, AFR recalls that this was the first film passed by the Censor containing a nude love scene. Naturally, it did a roaring trade at the box office. One Saturday night, as the two lovers played enthusiastically by Kim Novak and Laurence Harvey - entwined on the screen of the old Palace cinema in MacCurtain Street, a voice from the Gods cried out: Jayz, she have a pair a legs on er like Donie Wallace!. Donie was a famous Cork Hibernians soccer player of the time.
Anyway, while the new GAA measures may go a long way towards eliminating doping from Dis Great Association of Ours, An Fear Rua regretfully believes that the dopes will always be with us
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