Saturday Panel: Irish champion rower has a different take on Maria Sharapova's failed blood test

Niall O'Toole was in studio along with Eoin Kelly and Tony Og Regan

BY Sinéad Farrell 16:02 Saturday 12 March 2016, 16:02 12 Mar 2016

Damian Dovarganes / AP/Press Association Images

Former hurlers Eon Kelly and Tony Óg Regan of Galway, joined Ger Gilroy on Off The Ball to discuss retirement from sport and the impact of drugs in their respective sports.

When an athlete's career draws to a close - either prematurely or after a significant length of time- the transition to life outside of sport can be difficult.

All members of the Saturday panel can relate to that experience and they spoke about what they did to overcome it.

Former Galway hurler Tony Óg Regan has actually written a thesis about GAA players retiring from the intercounty circuit as a result of a masters course he completed in the discipline of sports exercise and psycology.

Explaining what makes the transition so difficult, he said:

''You go into this bubble at 18 or 19 and you're looking at winning All-Irelands. You set your targets and you strive for that. And every year for 10 or 11 months, every decision you make is built around that. You become very selfish and you sacrifice other parts of your character. You probably neglect your relationships and neglect your work at times.''

For years, Eoin Kelly never needed to have a private consultation with a manager but when his role in the Tipperary squad changed in his final year, he broke that tradition to try and establish where he stood in the team.

''I went through a carrer of maybe 14 years and I never rang a manager until my last year. It wasn't the done thing when I started out. So I did have that conversation with Eamonn O'Shea and look it didn't work out for me but I felt after having that conversation, that even outside of sport I'd have no problem asking someone for something so I felt better.'

The panel also discussed Maria Sharapova and rower Niall O'Toole said that he did not think she unethically used the drug meldonium before it was declared a banned substance.

''Well if it's not illegal, it's not illegal. As an athlete you take whatever you can take as long as it's not banned.''

When asked about Andy Murray's comments from earlier in the week in which he says that unless an athlete has a prescription for something, they should not be taking it, O'Toole said:

''No I don't believe that. You look to WADA and all these other organisations to do the research and if it's not banned, it's not banned like can I not take an asprin, can I not take anything now? If it's performance enhancing, then take it off.''

O'Toole went on to explain his stance on the issue by referring to his condition in which he suffers from exercise induced asthma which ultimatley entitles him to the therepeutic use exemption. 

''I had a wheeze in my chest. I was tested an my lung function was lower when you do a flat out test than when it was beforehand. I had to have an inhaler and I needed a prescription for that and I had a doctor writing that for me. If you don't have the data then you shouldn't be on it.''


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