Ray Walker in action for Carlow in 2008. Picture: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Carlow footballer Ray Walker has maintained he did not knowingly take the banned substance meldonium but has accepted a four-year ban.
In a statement released through the Gaelic Players Association on Tuesday, Walker insisted the breach for the performance-enhancing drug was not intentional.
The suspension brings the 35-year-old’s playing career to an end after he had only returned to the panel in November following a long absence.
“I am the player who is at the centre of recent reports about an anti-doping violation,” confirmed Walker. “In light of the four-year ban which I now have to serve, which ends my inter-county career, and most likely my club involvement given my age, I want to put the following on the record:
“I did not intentionally take any banned substance. Anything that was found in my system was there completely unintentionally. I cannot explain for sure how the substance came to be in my system but I was taking anti-inflammatories for a lower stomach issue around the time of the test.
“I am accepting the four-year ban because I want this episode over and done with and, at 35, even a lesser ban would still mean I was unlikely to ever return to playing. It is not an admission of intentional wrongdoing on my part in any way.”
Walker’s case again raises issues regarding anti-doping education structures in the GAA as the O‘Hanrahan’s player insisted he received no direction in the area: “From the time that I rejoined the Carlow panel in November to the time the test took place in February, I did not receive any anti-doping training or education.”
As part of the agreement for receiving Government grants, inter-county players must complete a GAA Anti-Doping e-learning course or attend an anti-doping education session conducted by the GAA before March 31.