Since 2001 the GAA have been drug testing players as part of an agreement with the Irish Sports Council (ISC) and their policy to cooperate with the international anti-doping campaign administered by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA). The GAA believes that doping is contrary to the spirit of sport and every member has a duty to ensure that Gaelic games are free of doping.
ALL GAA members are subject to the Anti-Doping Rules as adopted by the Irish Sports Council (Rule 1.15 GAA Official Guide 2015). While any player may be selected for testing, there is a particular focus on testing with regard to Inter-County players. Indeed it is a condition of eligibility for the Government Eligible Expense Scheme and all county team support personnel (e.g. managers, coaches, medical personnel, nutritionists, psychologists, officials) have a responsibility to ensure that they are aware of the Irish Anti-Doping Rules and that there is an atmosphere supporting a drug free sport within each County.
The information that follows highlights key areas with regard to anti-doping. The GAA advises all members to read and understand the Anti-Doping Rules and to understand their responsibilities under the rules. The consequences of not adhering to Anti-Doping Rules can be severe for players and their support personnel such as coaches and parents; therefore it is critical that any questions/concerns be clarified with either the GAA or the ISC.
There are several changes to the rules which come into effect on 1 January 2015. The main changes for players to note are in relation to sanctions and risk of supplements. The use of serious doping substances for example steroids, growth hormone, EPO and various calculated doping methods for example blood transfusions can be sanctioned with four year bans. Refusing to provide or evading sample collection will now be sanctioned with bans up to four years.
The issue of contaminated supplements has been acknowledged by the latest version of the Anti-Doping Rules. If a player can establish ‘no significant fault or negligence’ then the sanction can range from a reprimand to a maximum of two years. This concept is explained in more detail in the ‘Risk minimisation’ section.
All members of the Association, particularly those involved in the Senior Inter-County scene, are advised to complete the GAA's Anti-Doping E-Learning Courses so as they are aware of their rights and responsibilities in relation to anti-doping.
As part of its commitment to educating players, medics and team support personnel, the Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee has developed GAA specific e-Learning programmes which aims to educate participants in key areas such as anti-doping rules and violations, supplement usage, medications, therapeutic use exemptions and testing procedures.
The Anti-Doping courses are available at http://learning.gaa.ie/Antidoping
The Senior Inter-County Player specific E-Learning Cousre (2017) can be accessed by following the instructions at the below link:
• As a first time user, you will have to ensure that pop-ups are unblocked in your browser or the courses will not open (Unblock pop-ups)
• The courses are not currently compatible with smartphones or tablet devices such as iPads.
Anti-Doping Education Seminars
In addition, a network of Sport Ireland trained, GAA Anti-Doping Tutors are available to present on request to Inter-County Panels, Development Squads, Clubs, Higher Education and Post Primary teams. Requests can be made via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Irish Anti-Doping Rules
The Medical, Scientific & Welfare Committee of the GAA in conjunction with Central Council have adapted the Irish Anti-Doping Rules as the Anti-Doping Rules of the GAA. A complete copy of the Irish Anti-Doping Rules can be found by following the link in the resources section of this booklet.
GAA Official Guide
Riail 1.15 Treoir Oifigiúil Part 1 states:
‘The Association forbids the use of prohibited substances or methods, a practice generally known as doping in sport. The Rules of the Association regarding doping are the Irish Anti-Doping Rules as adopted by the Irish Sports Council and as amended from time to time.The latest version can be downloaded from www.irishsportscouncil.ie/Anti-Doping/ . The Rules contained in the said Irish Anti-Doping Rules shall have effect and be construed as Rules of the Association. Central Council shall establish a committee known as the Anti-Doping Hearings Committee. Pursuant to an agreement made between Central Council and the Irish Sports Council, for the purposes of this Rule and the Irish Anti-Doping Rules, all references to the Irish Sport Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel in the Irish Anti-Doping Rules shall be construed as referring to the Anti-Doping Hearings Committee. International Units shall comply with the Anti-Doping legislation in their respective Countries of operation. Central Council shall establish a committee known as the Doping Control Committee and shall designate to it such functions of the Association in relation to the prevention of doping in the games of the Association as it deems suitable.’
Full details on the Irish Anti-Doping Programme are available at https://www.sportireland.ie/Anti-Doping/
Anti-Doping Rule Violations
Doping is defined as the occurrence of one or more of the anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) set out in the Irish Anti-Doping Rules
Did you know that there are ten Anti-Doping Rule Violations? These are:
- Presence of a Prohibited substance or method
- Use or attempted use by an athlete of a prohibited substance or method
- Refusing or failing to complete doping control
- Committing three Whereabouts Failures in Eighteen months
- Tampering or attempted tampering with any part of doping control
- Possession of a prohibited substance or method
- Trafficking or attempted trafficking of a prohibited substance or method
- Administration or attempted administration to an athlete or assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, covering up or any other type of complicity involving an Anti-Doping Rule Violation
- Assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, conspiring, covering up or any other type of intentional complicity involving an ADRV
- Associating with a person such as a coach, doctor or physio who has been found guilty of an ADRV or equivalent offence to a doping violation
Anti-Doping Rule Violations not only allow for players to be sanctioned, but for support personnel such as coaches, managers, medical personnel, trainers and officials. The use of serious doping substances for example steroids, growth hormone, EPO and various calculated doping methods for example blood transfusions will be sanctioned with four year bans. Refusing to provide or evading sample collection will now be sanctioned with bans up to four years.
The Prohibited List
The Prohibited List is an international standard identifying substances and methods prohibited in sport. It was first published in 1968 by the International Olympic Committee. Since 2004, the WADA has been responsible for the preparation and publication of the List, which it updates every year effective January 1.
Athletes should be aware of the classes of substances that are on the Prohibited List, and should be careful to check the status of any medication they consume to ensure that it won’t result in a positive test.
What is the Prohibited List?
• Separated into categories of substances and methods (e.g. steroids, stimulants, gene doping, recreational drugs)
• Identifies which substances are prohibited in-competition and/or out-of-competition
• Identifies which substances are prohibited in particular sports
• Distinguishes between specified and non-specified substances
How does a substance or method make the Prohibited List?
For a substance or method to be added to the Prohibited List, it must meet two out of three of the following criteria:
- There is evidence that the substance or method has the potential to enhance, or does enhance performance
- There is evidence that the substance or method represents an actual or potential health risk to the athlete
- WADA has determined that use of the substance or method violates the spirit of sport
The World Anti-Doping Agency issues a Prohibited List annually. The 2017 prohibited list comes into effect on January 1st 2017 and is available at the following link:
A summary of the major modifications and explanatory notes for the 2017 prohibited list is available at the following link:
Checking Your Medication
All players are reminded of the need to check any medication that they consume.
The following extract from an interview with gaa.ie that Brendan Cummins gave in 2013 which illustrates the importance of checking medications:
“GAA.ie: Sports people get sick like everybody else, but do you have to be extra vigilant about the medicines you take because you are subjected to drug testing?
BC: "Everything has to be cleared. I worked in the Nenagh branch of AIB last October and I had a head cold and was feeling a bit sorry for myself. Without thinking I went over the road to the local pharmacy. When I asked for Lemsip, the guy behind the counter said, ‘Are you sure you are allowed to take that?’ Thank God he told me because I had forgotten all about it. I had to ring the team doctor and he told me I couldn’t have that particular one.
- It’s one side of the game that people don’t realise – that a GAA player is now subject to the same controls as an athlete that is being funded by the Irish Sports Council even if he’s a lad putting out the flags at his local club one day and training with Tipp that evening. You don’t own your body anymore; the Sports Council owns it from the point of view of drug testing. It’s good to have it in the game, but it’s just another thing we have to be conscious of.”*
- Always remind your GP / Team Doctor that you are an athlete subject to drug testing. All athletes should check the status of all prescribed and over-the-counter medications using the resources below,based on were the medication was purchased. For example, if you purchased a packet of Lemsip in Dublin you should only check it on www.eirpharm.com, however, if you purchased the same packet in Antrim or whilst on holidays in another country, it must be check on www.globaldro.com. This is because the ingredients in a medication can differ from country to country, so even though a medication has the same name, and has the same type of packaging in another country, it is crucial that you check the medication in the country where you purchase it.
- Medication Checker Resources
- Republic of Ireland
- Medications bought in the Republic of Ireland can be checked on the Drugs in Sport Database
- For instant access to the Drugs in Sport Database, download the free 'Medication Checker' App available for iPhone and Android for Eirpharm - find it in the Apple iTunes Store or the Google PlayStore
- Medications bought in the Republic of Ireland can be checked by your G.P., Consultant or Pharmacist in a monthly publication called MIMS Ireland. Ensure the current months edition is checked.
- Six Counties / Britain / Canada / USA
- Medications bought in the Six Counties, Britain, U.S.A and Canada can be checked on www.globaldro.com
Rest of the World
If you purchase medications in any other part of the world, do one of the following:
- Use the Medication World Map to check if there are any resources for checking medications in the country you purchase the medication in
- Check the medication against the current WADA Prohibited List on www.wada-ama.org, - print off the Prohibited List or download the Prohibited List from iTunes for the iPhone – ask a sports pharmacist or doctor to assist you when checking
- Check confidentially with the Anti-Doping Unit of the Irish Sports Council - T: 00 353 1 8608800, E: email@example.com
- If a medication is prohibited, you must check and adhere to the Irish Sports Council TUE Policy
Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs)
A TUE permits an athlete to use a prohibited substance or method if the substance or method is medically required. Athletes can only get a TUE if there is no unfair advantage from taking the substance or using the method.
Criteria for determining whether a TUE is granted are defined by the WADA:
- The athlete would experience a significant impairment to their health without the use of the prohibited substance or method
- The therapeutic use of the prohibited substance or prohibited method would produce no additional enhancement of performance
- There is no reasonable therapeutic alternative to the use of the otherwise prohibited substance or prohibited method
- Senior Inter-County players are eligible to apply for a post-test TUE. It is important to keep dating accurate medical files and declaring all medications on the doping control form when tested.
More information is available here
Sports supplements are commonly used by athletes in the hope of maximising the benefits of participating in sport. Understandably sports people can be confused about the issues around sports supplements. It is important to remember that there are risks associated with supplement use.
The GAA has produced the following information sheet in relation to Sports Supplements: GAA Information Sheet on Sports Supplements
General Advice from Sport Ireland
- Follow a dietary plan that will allow you to adapt your eating and drinking practices to maximise your performance
- Seek advice from a professional such as a Sports Dietician (e.g. a Member of the Irish Nutrition and
- Dietetic Institute MINDI, (www.indi.ie) before taking any supplement.
- Make sure that the professional is familiar with the WADA Prohibited List.
- Remember that dietary alteration may replace the need for any particular supplement.
- Remember that there is a variable level of risk associated with supplements. Vitamins and minerals produced by reputable pharmaceutical companies especially those with a marketing authorisation number such as a product authorisation (PA) number are less likely to be associated with health risks or inadvertent drug tests.
- Check if these products are listed on www.eirpharm.com (for products bought in the Republic of Ireland) or www.globaldro.com (for products bought in the Six Counties, Britain or USA).
- Be aware that supplements which claim to be muscle building or fat burning are more likely to be associated with contamination with anabolic steroids, stimulants and other contaminants.
- Always remember that there are no quick fixes for improving sports performance.
- Carry out and record online research before taking any supplement
Do not take a supplement just because a team mate or a competitor is taking it or recommends it.
- Do not take any supplements made by a company which also manufactures substances which are on the WADA Prohibited List due to the risk of cross contamination
- Do not take any supplements that make claims that sound too good to be true. Always validate product claims through non-biased sources.
- Do not take any supplements made by a company which in the past has been associated with positive drugs tests.
- Do not buy supplements either over the internet or through magazines as they are more likely to be associated with an increased risk of inadvertent doping, adverse health effects and other associated problems.
- Do not exceed the recommended dose - Remember more is not always better. Excessive use of one vitamin or mineral can have a negative impact on the availability or absorption of another. The recommended daily allowances (RDA) for vitamins and minerals should be used as a guide in determining nutritional needs.
- Read the full Supplements and Sports Food Policy
Sport Ireland recommend against the use of sports supplements because they believe that:
- Correct dietary and nutritional regime will provide all the potential benefits of sports supplements.
- Given the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) principle of strict liability, players are opening up the possibility of inadvertent positive tests by taking supplements.
- It is inappropriate for any junior player to be taking supplements that could have an impact on their physical development.
To access the Sport Ireland Supplements and Sports Food Policy http://www.sportireland.ie/Anti-Doping/Athlete-Zone/Supplements_Nutrition/Supplements_and_Sport_Food_Policy.pdf
The issue of contaminated supplements has been acknowledged by the latest version of the Anti-Doping Rules. If an athlete can establish ‘no significant fault or negligence’ then the sanction can range from a reprimand to a maximum of 2 years.
It is important to note that the World Anti-Doping Code still contains a principle of ‘strict liability’. This means that a player is wholly responsible for any prohibited substances found in their system, regardless of how it got there and whether they intended to cheat or not.
If players choose to take supplements, the GAA advises them to do the following in advance:
- Carry out online research and record findings in respect of any supplement you plan to take
- Keep screen-shots and print outs of findings
- Seek the opinion of a qualified medical practitioner
Doping Control Procedures
The doping control process for GAA players is made up of five stages:
- Athlete selection
- Athlete notification
- Sample collection
- Laboratory analysis
- Results management
Testing of GAA players can only occur at training or games. Click here to view a video which gives an overview of the doping control procedures.
From January 1st 2016, Blood Testing will be introduced in Gaelic Games as part of the Association’s Anti-Doping programme in conjunction with the Irish Sports Council.
Blood testing is not a replacement for urine testing. The Sports Council can and will test both blood and/or urine on certain occasions.
The sanction for refusal is a period of ineligibility of up to four years from sport.
To find out more about the introduction of blood testing, please click here.
The ISC has the ability to test players at training and at matches. The Sports Council requires 'whereabouts' information from each County which allows them to know the time and venue for each Inter-County training session in both codes. The costs of a missed test are incurred by any County that fails to supply accurate and correct information. The GAA liaises with the ISC and County Committees in respect of whereabouts.
#cleangreensport E-Learning Course
This course has been developed by Sport Ireland and covers key topics in anti-doping including the following:
· Anti-doping rule violations
· Testing procedures blood & urine
· How to check medications
· Therapeutic Use Exemptions
· The risk of supplements and herbal remedies
· Consequences of doping
At the very end a certificate of completion will generate, which all athletes and coaches are encouraged to save this for own records.
Resources - Links and Downloads (see below for downloads)
Irish Anti-Doping Rules
WADA Anti-Doping Code
Check your Medications and TUE Policy
Sample Collection Procedures
Supplements and Sports Foods Policy
Information of Performance Enhancing Drugs
GAA Information Sheet on Sports Supplements
WADA 2018 Prohibited List
GAA Anti-Doping Booklet
GAA Anti-Doping E-learning Course 2017
GAA Learning and Development Portal
Irish Sports Council Website
Medication Checker App
For any queries regarding anti-doping in the GAA please contact the Games Administration and Player Welfare Department - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Irish Sports Council Anti-Doping Unit can also be contacted directly at:
Anti Doping Unit
Irish Sports Council
Top Floor, Block A
Westend Office Park,