Anti-Doping Task Force meeting postponed to next week

CRH chairman Nicky Hartery may be approached to succeed Joe Keeling as HRI chairman

The first meeting of racing's reconvened Anti-Doping Task Force won't now take place until next week when it will be chaired for the first time by the former chief veterinary officer at the Department of Agriculture, Colm Gaynor.

Last month he was appointed as an independent chairman with no connection to bloodstock industry bodies in an attempt to break prolonged deadlock on how to implement drug-testing procedures in Ireland.

It’s almost two years since the task force – formed on the back of steroids controversies and which comprises representatives from all industry sectors – issued a report on how to address the doping threat to Irish racing.

One of its recommendations was the implementation of a protocol to allow the Turf Club carry out testing on premises that racing’s regulatory body doesn’t licence. Stud farms are not licensed by the Turf Club so its officials have no authority to enter them.


However protracted negotiations between sales companies, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association and the Turf Club, as well as an intervention by Horse Racing Ireland, failed to break the jurisdictional deadlock.

Gaynor was appointed after the task force's original chairman, the Turf Club senior steward, Meta Osborne, stepped aside from the role. Gaynor was originally scheduled to meet with the Task Force today but the body won't now meet until next Tuesday (December 19th).

"The first meeting will be to crystallize the issues, for the chairman to introduce himself and set out his stall," said HRI's chief executive Brian Kavanagh who is a member of the Task Force.

“The delay is just down to arranging the diaries of 14 or 15 busy people at this time of year. The aim is to reach agreement on an industry-wide policy on drug testing and setting out plans for its implementation.

“We’re looking at this first meeting and then a maximum of a couple of more after that. I think there’s a willingness on the part of all parties to get to the same end position,” he added.

Other task force members include trainer John Oxx, Eimear Mulhern from Goffs as well as the breeders representatives Des Leadon and John O'Connor.

The body was originally set up as a response to a number of steroids controversies including that of former top trainer Philip Fenton who was disqualified from racing for three years in 2014. That ban finished last month.


On Monday Kavanagh couldn't give details as to when a successor to Joe Keeling as HRI chairman will be known. However speculation has already included predictions that businessman Nicky Hartery may be approached to take up the role.

The chairman of the international building materials group CRH has interests in the bloodstock sector and bred the 2012 Nunthorpe Stakes winner Margot Did at Caherass Stud in Co Limerick.

“HRI has no role in this. It’s a question for the Department of Agriculture when they want to move on it. It’s a government appointment and there’s a public appointments system which evaluates these high level appointments,” Kavanagh said.

Keeling’s five year tenure as HRI chairman is technically due to finish on March 19th. However a successor could be named early in the New Year in order to help them become familiar with the details involved.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column