Former chief vet is new chairman of racing’s Anti-Doping Task Force

Task force has been reconvened to break deadlock on how to implement drug-testing procedures

The Anti-Doping Task Force  was originally set up after a series of steroids controversies

The Anti-Doping Task Force was originally set up after a series of steroids controversies

 

The former chief veterinary officer at the Department of Agriculture, Colm Gaynor, is the new chairman of racing’s Anti-Doping Task Force.

He takes over the role from the Turf Club’s senior steward Meta Osborne, who recommended that an “independent” chairman with no connection to bloodstock industry bodies be appointed to lead the task force, which will reconvene next month.

The task force, which issued a report almost two years ago with extensive recommendations on how the bloodstock industry should address the threat of doping, has been reconvened in an effort to break prolonged deadlock on how to implement drug-testing procedures in Ireland.

One of the task force report’s main recommendations was the implementation of a protocol to allow racing’s regulatory body, the Turf Club, carry out testing on premises which are unlicensed by it. Stud farms are not licensed by the Turf Club, so its officials have no authority to enter them.

The task force report also recommended that sales companies make it a requirement that any horse entered for sale is liable for testing under a Turf Club programme.

However, despite prolonged negotiations between sales companies, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association and the Turf Club, as well as intervention by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) officials, talks which have primarily revolved around the issue of jurisdiction stalled last month.

The task force will meet again on December 11th, with Gaynor overseeing the 16-member cross-industry body which includes representatives from HRI, the Turf Club, trainers, sales companies, owners and breeders.

Experience

“He’s the perfect man for the job. He brings experience from the Department of Agriculture. Chief veterinary officer is a senior role in the country, and his role as a director on the board of Bord Na gCon means he knows the importance of doping control as well,” said HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh on Tuesday.

Gaynor’s other positions include being adjunct professor of veterinary public health at University College Dublin.

Confirmation of a recall for the Anti-Doping Task Force, whose members include trainers John Oxx and Michael Halford, breeders’ representatives Des Leadon and John O’Connor, as well as Eimear Mulhern from Goffs, came a month ago.

The body was originally set up after a series of steroids controversies which included the prominent trainer Philip Fenton being disqualified from racing for three years in 2014. That ban finishes this month.

Kavanagh insisted on Tuesday that the formulation of a thorough testing programme which includes traceability of horses throughout their lives was a priority for racing and the breeding industry.

“I would far prefer to get this done right than get it done quickly. It is a priority, and I remain optimistic about the introduction of a good system. The main issue is in relation to premises or individuals being subject to a testing or regulatory regime, and there is good will from all parties to get a solution. The same issue arises in Britain, Australia and other countries.”

Public sales

Kavanagh said testing in racing yards was a straightforward matter for the Turf Club which licenses those premises, and also pointed out how elective testing was already carried out at public sales.

“Elective testing is done by purchasers. There are 1,000 samples taken from horses before they ever come near racing, effectively covering the breeding system.

“Sales companies, studs and breeders have come forward and said they want to participate in the system and in this task force, so it’s a question of finding the right method.”

Although stepping down from chairing the task force, Osborne will continue to serve on it.

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