PED’S and GAA may need to go hand in hand in the future

Posted: July 17, 2013 in Uncategorized


The truth is that doping has been in existence for longer than any living person can remember.  It is well documented that in Germany in the 1920s experiments with substances were employed to improve athletic performance. It is easy to lay claim to the notion that “professionalism” has led to the need to become the best by any means necessary, but what is closer to the truth is that it is the fear of failure that drives today’s athlete to push his/her body above and beyond. Growing up no one wants to know who is the slowest kid in the playground, the faster, stronger and better the kid the more acclaim he/she gets. It is this feeling manifested and magnified over the following years that breeds success. But the lifespan of the athlete is short and even shorter is the window offered to the athlete where he/she is top dog, King of the Hill, there is always a younger version on the rise and eventually someone will come to knock you off your pedestal. When injuries and rehabiliation are taken into account it is easy to see why one would turn to methods seen as less conventional by others to boost their performance or to return them to their pre-injury state. No matter how naturally gifted an athlete is the end of the tunnel fast approaches and no athlete wants to fade off into the light without leaving a legacy behind.

What has come to light in the past number of days and will no doubt escalate over the coming months is the high performance Olympic athletes predominantly male sprinters being caught out using performance enhancers.  From the Lance Armstrong scandal to the Olympians when we hear on the news about these “cheats” we respond with shock and look at it as though we ourselves have been cheated and that the innocence of sport has been damaged. What we fail to acknowledge is that performance enhancers are used in many walks of life from orchestral performers using nerve and muscle relaxants to mechanical devices used by trainers and coaches to stimulate muscles and cognitive reaction to a higher level than what is naturally possible. Where then can the line be drawn and why is it acceptable for one form of enhancement and not another? Is it perhaps the social stigma associated with drugs that curtails the promotion of these aids? For instance the GAA has become saturated with the approach whereby the bigger more physical the player the better chance he/she has of making it to the highest level. What message is this sending to the youth in today’s underage clubs around the country? Surely these young footballers and hurlers will look for the next step beyond the simple protein shake and creatine mix to get the desired results, which are a result of the growing pressure placed on their young shoulders. Remember it is not all that long ago when mothers and fathers the length and breath of the country were questioning the “mass gainer” or the “protein powder” that suddenly appeared in the corner of the kitchen. It cannot be too big an assumption to make that there is a certain percentage of GAA athletes who if tested would fall into the “usage” category. Are GAA inter-county players tested during off season and how many get tested during in season? Reading the Irish sports council from 2012 is interesting

Information was also published on “Whereabouts Failures”. For individual sports there were 18 “Filing Failures” and 3 “Missed Tests”. Three indiscretions of this kind can lead to an athlete receiving a sanction which to date has not arisen under the Irish Anti-Doping Rules. In team sports there were 12 “Unsuccessful Attempts” including 8 in the GAA. – See more at:

“You get out what you put in” that’s what I was always told, so why not aim to be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be? If it can be proven that the performance enhancing drugs are medically free from danger and are prescribed in moderation and in accordance to the specific need of the athlete by those who understand their workings surely the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for performance boosting aids? The real issue when dealing with doping in sports is not whether it is a fair or unfair advantage or disadvantage. The common factor and what is true of all sports is that involvement in the first instance is voluntary, when an athlete signs up to a specific sport he/she understands the moral implications of taking part. Upon joining this new fraternity the athlete understands the core ideals of the group, any changes to the core ideals must be performed democratically. It draws the conclusion that doping may actually benefit the individual when monitored, however, it is dangerous to the sustainability and integrity of the group at large when performance aids are abused by a minority in an undemocratic fashion.  Therefore, it seems that as society evolves so too does sport, and it is time to acknowledge the use of drugs to improve athletic performance is not always a bad thing, it is not the approach of the individual athlete that needs to change but the entire nature of each associated governing party in all levels of sport.

Thanks to one of our subscribers Patrick O Keffee for this one. ‘Sports Ethicist

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