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31st Mar 2021

“High standards in sport are so, so important” Dr Una May on anti-doping in sport

Ann Cronin


Brought to you by Sport Ireland #WomeninSportIRE

“We have to make sure that athletes are what they say they are, that they’re competing clean and that they represent us fairly and honestly.”

In the latest episode of Girls With Goals, we caught up with Dr Una May to discuss her impressive sporting career, as well as her work within the anti-doping sphere.

Una has represented Ireland in both orienteering and mountain running, but she has also dedicated a significant portion of her career to the anti-doping field, an area which initially sparked her interest when she was a Sports Science student in Liverpool.

“There was a study going on at the time when I was in Liverpool, it was at the time when there was a big case in the UK, an athlete by the name of Diane Modahl, who had a sample that she argued had been damaged by being left in the heat and therefore, that was the reason why she had tested positive.

“So, some of the scientists in our chemistry department were looking at the effect of heat on the urine sample and how it could be degraded. So, we provided a sample in all our innocence, as athletes.”

“Mine went in an incubator and actually, the degradation of the sample would have led to me having a positive test and I was absolutely flummoxed, I couldn’t believe that an athlete could have been caught out like that.”

Speaking about doping scandals all over the world, Una says that, while Ireland doesn’t have a strong doping culture, it is something still taken very seriously by Sport Ireland.

“An athlete dedicates their life to their performances and if we let them down by having a poor anti-doping system, we’re letting the athletes down and we’re letting ourselves down.”

“It feels like a complete waste of time and energy encouraging, supporting and promoting athletes to develop their performance if we’re then going to throw them out into a field full of doped up athletes.”

You can check out the full interview below.

Una also discussed female participation in sport, revealing that a lot of the barriers young girls can face today when engaging with sport are the same issues she experienced as teenager.

Living in a rural area, Una says sporting opportunities weren’t always easily available to her.

“I lived up in the mountains so travelling to anything was an epic adventure. I was on the basketball team and I could spend two hours getting to a match and not play, and that’s pretty soul destroying. And if I hadn’t had the other sports that I loved doing so much, I think I could have been turned off sport very easily.”

To listen to the full interview with Una, click here.

Participating in sport and physical activity provides multiple benefits for physical and mental health, and for overall quality of life. A recent report from Sport Ireland revealed that the most powerful change in encouraging girls to taking part in sport and physical activity is empowering them to feel good enough to join in.

For more information on how you can make a difference, read the new Sport Ireland “Adolescent Girls Get Active” report here.

Brought to you by Sport Ireland #WomeninSportIRE