8th May 2015

Ireland reports increased testing in 2014

The Irish Sports Council (ISC) reported that it increased the number of doping tests conducted under its National Testing Programme by 186 tests (18%) to 1,054 during 2014, including 279 blood tests, which represented a 31% increase over 2013. However, no blood tests were conducted in competition during 2014 – all 279 blood tests were conducted out of competition. Five hundred and ten urine tests were conducted out of competition and 265 in competition. Athletics Ireland led the testing figures, with 213 tests – 85 of which were blood – closely followed by Cycling Ireland with 180 tests, 61 of which were blood. The cost of the 2014 testing programme was €1.53 million, a 25% increase over the €1.23 million cost of the 2013 programme.

Thirty-two percent of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) were granted in rugby, much higher than for any other sport, and an increase over 2013, where 26% of TUEs were granted to rugby players. Cycling had the second-highest number of TUEs in 2014, with 12%.

Minister of State for Tourism & Sport, Michael Ring, unveiled the report on 6 May. “My commitment is underpinned by the fact that I have taken the opportunity in the Sport Ireland Bill, currently before the Seanad, to update the regulations on anti-doping”, he said in a statement. “We in Ireland are committed to inspiring fair play in sport and protecting the rights of clean athletes and I want to send a clear message out today that doping should not be tolerated at any level”.

This could include the criminalisation of doping in Ireland. “I’d say yeah, it should be considered, absolutely”, Chief Executive of the ISC John Treacy told the Irish Times, when asked whether the ISC would consider criminalisation of doping. “Certainly it’s a major step forward. It is something that should definitely be considered. It’s a strong step […] We are trying to send out a very strong message in Ireland and do our utmost.”

Treacy also told the Irish Examiner that the ISC would introduce a blood testing programme for Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) athletes from 2016. GAA athletes – who complete in sports such as hurling and Gaelic football – are traditionally amateur, but following a new television deal with BSkyB, the GAA is debating whether its players should be remunerated. In 2014, 89 urine tests – evenly split between in-competition and out-of-competition – were carried out on GAA athletes, a comparatively small number considering that a number of sports fall under the GAA umbrella, but perhaps appropriate given the amateur status of the sport.

The ISC said that its Anti-Doping Unit had ‘considerable consultation with the Department of Art, Transport, Tourism and Sport’ in the drafting of the anti-doping provisions within the Sport Ireland Bill, which is expected to pass into legislation during 2015. The Bill was published in August last year, which is designed to merge the ISC and the National Sports Campus Development Authority to create a new body, Sport Ireland. It is also intended to provide a ‘statutory basis’ for anti-doping rules in Ireland.

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