The Turf Club revamps drug testing systems

New measures will include for the first time the ability to test horses that are out-of-training

Trainer Philip Fenton at Clonmel Racecourse. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Trainer Philip Fenton at Clonmel Racecourse. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Fri, Feb 28, 2014, 13:34

The Turf Club have announced plans for a major revamp of their drug-testing systems including for the first time the ability to test horses that are out-of-training.

Currently Irish racing’s integrity body are permitted to test horses that have been officially returned as in-training but they have no authority over yards that are not licensed.

On the back of charges brought by the Department of Agriculture of possession of unlicensed medicines, including anabolic steroids, against two trainers, Philip Fenton and Pat Hughes, there has been a focus on the Turf Club’s policing of racing in terms of medication.

Yesterday the body issued a statement outlining plans for horses out-of-training to be subjected to a “rigorous new testing programme” and for “current procedures for testing in-training horses to be intensified.”

Crucially it is seeking new powers for its officials to be allowed search premises and to seize materials if necessary.

The Turf Club is also looking for formal information sharing arrangements with the Department of Agriculture, the Gardai and Customs.

It aims to have its new regime in place by January 1 of 2015. Horse Racing Ireland, which handles racing’s finances, has given clear indications of support in relation to any funding of the Turf Club’s needs in terms of a revamped drug-testing programme.

The Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan said: “We will use every resource at our disposal to ensure that Irish racing is kept as clean as possible and free from drugs.

“Over the next two years we will significantly enhance the out of competition testing that we carry out with the result that we will be able to test a lot more horses that previously we did not have access to.

“Recent developments have pointed for the need to extend the drug testing regime particularly into the area where horses are out of training, and also to seek new powers to enable the Turf Club veterinary officers inspect premises for illegal drugs.”