Anti-doping fight will be Turf Club’s priority in 2017
25 per cent increase in blood and urine testing planned for second half of the year
Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan: “I would be optimistic we will find a solution and come to an arrangement on testing which is acceptable to everyone.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
The Turf Club has expressed satisfaction with its €9.6 million integrity budget for next year from Horse Racing Ireland and has indicated more testing in the fight against doping will be its priority for 2017.
A 25 per cent increase in testing is planned with both blood and urine tests set to be carried out on horses in the second half of 2017. Testing will increase as new laboratory equipment comes into service later in the year.
Part of the regulatory service’s budget includes €1.9 million of capital expenditure including new equipment for the forensic unit being used.
There will be a new mobile testing unit in place to help in the fight against what is known as ‘milkshaking’ while testing for cobalt is also planned for 2017.
“Milkshaking” is a practise outlawed in all racing jurisdictions but can be employed as a performance enhancer.
It is based on sodium bicarbonate making blood and muscle tissue less acidic, thus providing a buffer against the build up of lactic acid which enables a horse to go faster for longer. It is also believed to be a masking agent.
Controversies over the use of cobalt have plagued Australian racing in recent years with the renowned trainer Peter Moody walking away from the sport after picking up a six-month ban for an unintentional cobalt violation.
Trainer Jim Bolger has criticised the lack of testing for cobalt and milkshaking in Ireland.
Testing for both is commonplace in other major jurisdictions and Bolger said in September: “As racing in Ireland is at least as good as anywhere in the world the testing should be right up there with the best international standards, and we are not at the moment.”
Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan has stressed however that anti-doping will be the regulatory body’s priority next year.
Currently only Department of Agriculture personnel can gain access to stud farms with Turf Club officials having no jurisdiction on such premises.
“We plan to increase testing by 25 per cent next year and one of the areas will be with pre-race testing in order to make sure there is no ‘milkshaking’.
“We will have a mobile testing unit to help us in that. We also hope to introduce cobalt testing and new equipment has been purchased in relation to that. For the second half of the year, blood and urine will be taken from horses,” Egan added.
Hopes continue to revolve around potential hair-sample testing on horses but steps taken in relation to that are likely to take more time.
“Racing isn’t there yet internationally on using hair-testing to a prosecutable basis. We would hope that in 2017 a test will become available internationally that we can prosecute on. At the moment however it is useful in terms of intelligence purposes, the Turf Club spokesman said.
Changes to the Turf Club’s Rule 212 ‘non-trier’ regulation are set to be confirmed next month.
The rule is due to be broken into four parts with the fourth being in relation to rides that are ruled to be “misjudged”.
The Turf Club is also examining its system in relation to declaration of non-runners and reserves with trainers set to have to go through a process in the New Year of declaring their horses to be non-runners or runners.
Allen is chairman of the Galway Race Committee.