Recreational drug use in professional football continues

Following Hull City footballer Jake Livermore’s failing of a drug test earlier this year, the issue of recreational drug use in football has come under the microscope once again.

The one time England international tested positive for cocaine use after a random drug test which followed his side’s 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace in April.

Livermore, who was provisionally suspended by the Football Association and his club, had recently experienced the death of his newborn daughter and, on these grounds, his suspension was lifted by the FA in September.

Hull City manager, Steve Bruce, attributed Livermore’s use of the class A drug to the sadness the player felt after his daughter’s untimely passing.

Closer to home, there have been a number of instances whereby League of Ireland players have been cited by the Football Association of Ireland following positive drug tests.

Most recently, the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland (PFAI) announced on October 21st that a League of Ireland player had failed a drug test for a banned substance, which the Irish Independent said was ‘believed to be cocaine’.

The player, who remains unnamed, waived his right to have a B sample tested according to the PFAI who confirmed that ‘the drug in question was of a recreational nature’.

The PFAI’s statement noted that the player involved had a right to anonymity and, further, requested that those using social media and other outlets refrain from gossip or speculation until the matter had been resolved.

Positive drug tests have remained however, highly unusual in Irish soccer.

The last, and only, time that a League of Ireland player tested positive for cocaine was in 2003 when, then Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper, Barry Ryan, failed a random test and received a 15 month ban from the FAI. This ban was reduced to 9 months after an appeal and Ryan moved on to the now defunct club, Dublin City FC.

In 2012, Dundalk F.C. midfielder Shane Grimes, then of rivals Drogheda United, tested positive for the stimulant methylhexaneamine, otherwise known as MHA, and was subject to an 8 month playing ban.

Grimes’ situation was an interesting one as the panel judging the case acknowledged that the player most likely used the substance unknowingly – it is an ingredient in the widely used pre-workout supplement ‘JACK3D’ – although the player’s carelessness in this regard was also noted.

A statement by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) a year before Grimes’ positive test was titled ‘Beware – Your Supplement Could Cause a Positive Test’. The statement warned athletes to exercise caution when using products like ‘JACK3D’ or other products that may have in fact been ‘designer steroids’.

For more stories from Conor Murphy, you can visit his Twitter at @conormurphylfc.

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