By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Up to half of Ireland’s intercounty Gaelic footballers have used the controversial training supplement creatine, according to the preliminary findings of a new survey.
The survey which is being carried out by the former Dublin player Dr. Noel McCaffrey has yet to be completed. However, it has already thrown up some interesting statistics regarding creatine.
Nearly 50 percent of the footballers surveyed said they were taking or had taken creatine, but most said they had stopped because it wasn’t benefiting them.
On the subject of creatine’s safety, McCaffrey believes there has been an over-alarmist attitude to the substance.
"While there is no evidence yet that it is dangerous, there is reasonable concern that the taking of creatine by young people can lead to the abuse of other, illegal and
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dangerous substances," McCaffrey said. "If evidence is found that such is the case, I would be in favor of making creatine illegal, but that research hasn’t been undertaken yet."
McCaffrey also points out that research in track and field has indicated that creatine is of greatest benefit to athletes who don’t have a high level of fitness.
"There are a number of factors here," he said. "One, does it work? Two, is it safe? Three, is it cheating? In terms of Gaelic games, creatine’s effectiveness has yet to be proved. What might disappoint players is that it won’t make it easier for them to put the ball over the bar."
Pat Daly, the GAA’s Coaching and Games Development manager, who is also secretary of the association’s Medical Workgroup, is dismissive of the controversy surrounding creatine.
"I see it as being a nine-day wonder," he said. "Guys
have been taking cocktails of various substances for as long as sport’s been organized."
Meanwhile, hurling could be about to undergo a change with the abolition of the time-honored throw-in at the start of a game. The GAA’s Central Council has ruled that the throw-in will be abolished on an experimental basis during the forthcoming National Hurling League.
Instead, games will start with a puck-out from one of the goalkeepers, with the winners of a toss deciding from which end the puck-out should be taken.
The aim of the experiment is to eliminate "unseemly" incidents that have occurred at the start of some high-profile games. The most obvious example was the dangerous pulling which preceded the infamous Munster final replay between Clare and Waterford in 1998.