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Shelbourne star banned for cocaine use reveals severe gambling addiction

SoccerBy Sunday World
Craig Walsh, during his Bohemians days, playing against Richie Towell
Craig Walsh, during his Bohemians days, playing against Richie Towell

Shelbourne midfielder Craig Walsh has been found guilty of an anti-doping violation, the FAI and Sport Ireland have announced.

Walsh, who had a brief TV Career on Sky's 'Football's Next Star', had his period of ineligibility reduced based on No Significant Fault or Negligence.

In a doping control test conducted immediately after a match in September, 2015, he provided a sample which tested positive for the presence of a prohibited substance, Benzoylecgonine (a metabolite of cocaine).

His ban was reduced to 12 months on appeal.

In a statement released by the PFAI, Walsh revealed that he was battling depression brought on by a severe gambling addiction at the time of the positive test.

The statement in full:

"It is a source of great regret that I have to make this statement to explain the reasons behind my one year suspension from playing football. In first instance, I would like to point out that I take responsibility for my actions and wish I could turn back the clock. I can’t and so I feel that I should, at the very least, provide some clarity for my actions which were completely out of character for me.

"I suffer from a severe gambling addiction and have done for some years now. It is debilitating and all consuming and, like most addictions, when it unleashes its full power, it becomes impossible to control. It has also caused me to suffer depressive symptoms as a consequence.

"On the night of 3 September 2015, I hit rock bottom. I had lost far more money than I possessed and I lost control of my senses. My gambling problem had become more and more acute and I didn’t know where to turn. My judgment was impaired to such an extent that I drank to excess and then took a small amount of cocaine which was offered to me during a period when I was unable to exercise any level of self control. This is the first and last time that I have taken that, or any other, drug, and I regret it hugely.

"I have since attended Dr Colin O’Gara, a consultant psychiatrist, who is an expert in the area of addiction and he has described gambling disorder, of which mine is at the severe end of the spectrum, as a medical illness, comparable to alcohol and drug addiction in its effects. He said “the illness is characterised by impairment of judgment”.

"The appeal panel took this into account when determining the length of suspension and I am grateful for their understanding. There is a lack of appreciation in the football community and society as a whole as to the detrimental effects of gambling and I would like my story to be a salutary lesson.

"I have been receiving counselling since the incident which has been organised through the PFA Ireland which I have found very beneficial. I am back on the right track now and I have offered to assist other players and give the benefit of my experience which I would not wish on anyone.

"I hope to be back playing in the very near future after my suspension is lifted on 4 September next and am determined to return a better player. While the experience has been a personal nightmare, it has made me a stronger person with a greater insight to the extent of the issues I had been dealing with.

"I’d like to thank my family for their unwavering support and Shelbourne Football Club for their continued backing. I can’t wait to get back playing and repay the faith shown in me. I will be eternally grateful to the PFA Ireland and their solicitor Stuart Gilhooly who have put hours and hours of work into achieving what is the best result that could have been achieved in this very difficult situation."