GPA call for privacy over Carlow footballer Ray Walker's "alleged" anti-doping violation

The GPA and GAA reacted to Carlow footballer Ray Walker's four-year ban
The GPA and GAA reacted to Carlow footballer Ray Walker's four-year ban The GPA and GAA reacted to Carlow footballer Ray Walker's four-year ban

THE GPA [Gaelic Players Association] has appealed for privacy following an “alleged” anti-doping rule violation by Carlow footballer Ray Walker who has been hit with a four-year ban.

The 35-year-old who returned to the Carlow panel last November revealed his identity to the anti-doping charge and insisted that he did not intentionally take any banned substance.

The player couldn’t explain for sure how the substance ended up in his system, but that he was taking anti-inflammatories for a lower stomach issue around the time of the test in Feburary.

The player accepted the four-year ban because he wanted the episode “over and done with” and conceded his county and club playing career was probably over as a result of the suspension.

Both the GAA and GPA issued statements relating to Walker’s ban.

The GPA said: “The player decided to represent himself and responded directly to Sport Ireland. We will continue to offer the player personal support and we appeal for his privacy at this time.

“The GPA is fully supportive of the Sport Ireland anti-doping programme to promote clean sport and protect the integrity of our games. We will continue to work to ensure the GAA deliver robust education to all inter-county players and to support the Sport Ireland National Testing Programme.”

In the GAA’s statement, it read that it “notes the reasoned decision made by Sport Ireland under the Irish Anti-Doping rules to impose a four-year period of ineligibility on Ray Walker in relation to an adverse analytical finding following a positive test for meldonium on a sample collected from the player on February 18 2020.”

The Association went on to say that it’s the fourth occasion an inter-county player has tested positive for a banned substance since testing began in 2001.

“On the previous three occasions, the players in question sought a Hearing from the GAA’s Anti-Doping Disciplinary Hearings Committee. On this occasion, the player has decided to accept the maximum penalty without recourse to a Hearing.

“While it is ultimately the responsibility of individual players to be aware of the provisions of the Irish Anti-Doping Rules, including items on the Prohibited List, the GAA, in conjunction with Sport Ireland, and with the support of the GPA and of backroom personnel involved with all of its inter-county teams, has established an extensive anti-doping education programme for inter-county players over the last number of years.”

While the GPA said it would work “to ensure the GAA deliver robust education to all inter-county players”, the GAA appeared to respond by stating what education it has made available.

“The Association has trained a total of 46 anti-doping tutors and makes education available to its players through a combination of face-to-face workshops or through completion of the GAA’s online anti-doping course.

“In excess of 2,100 players received formal education in 2019 in this manner. To date in 2020, more than 2,200 players have completed formal education.

“In addition, completion of formal Anti-Doping education before March 31 annually has been a pre-requisite for participation in the Government Support Schemes for inter-county players since 2018. For the record, last year 36 players on the Carlow Football Panel completed formal anti-doping education. As of today, 36 players in the 2020 squad have also done so.”

Sport Ireland conduct well in excess of 100 tests per year on inter-county players (137 tests were carried out in 2019), both in competition and out of competition (i.e. at team training sessions).

“While the GAA is disappointed to note another adverse analytical finding, the Association remains committed to upholding the provisions of the Irish Anti-Doping Rules and will continue its ongoing efforts to provide education and advice to its players in this context,” the statement concluded.