Horse racing body: ‘prior day notice’ drugs testing not ideal

But regulatory body indicates it will sign up, and says stiffer penalties likely for steroid use

“For any anti-doping programme, any form of notice is less than ideal.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

“For any anti-doping programme, any form of notice is less than ideal.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has described as less than ideal any “prior day notice” element likely to be included in the thoroughbred industry’s proposed new anti-doping policy.

Despite that, racing’s regulatory body has indicated it is prepared to sign up to the Industry Wide Policy on Prohibited Substances/Doping Control.

Representative bodies throughout racing and breeding are currently examining the proposed document ahead of a crucial Horse Racing Ireland board meeting on Monday.

The Irish Times has seen the document, which includes a section relating to both random testing – with “prior day notification” – and targeted inspections carried out by IHRB vets accompanied by Department of Agriculture personnel when making unannounced visits.

The document has been the result of painstaking negotiations on the back of an anti-doping task force report released in early 2016 after a series of steroids controversies.

They included high-profile trainer Philip Fenton being disqualified from racing for three years when unauthorised medicines, including anabolic steroids, were found in his yard in 2012.

Fenton’s ban ended last year and he has successfully applied to get his trainer’s licence back. His first runner since, Special Cargo, finished down the field at Killarney on Thursday.

The decision to give Fenton back his licence has been criticised, but IHRB chief executive Denis Egan said on Friday the decision was up to the regulatory body’s licensing committee.

However, he also stressed that, in future, penalties for drug offences, especially in relation to anabolic steroids, would be stiffer.

“In the three years since Philip Fenton was sentenced, the whole thinking on use of anabolic steroids has moved on in the sense of the anti-doping task force report, which is due to be published. I think everyone in the industry realises they’re an absolute no-no.

“Each individual case has to be taken on its merits. But [in future] we would certainly be looking for more than three years,” Egan said.

Important element

A key element to any new anti-doping policy for both racing and breeding is a service level agreement, which will authorise IHRB veterinary officers to carry out testing on premises unlicensed by the regulatory body. These include stud farms and pretraining yards.

The issue of notice being given prior to testing has been a contentious one throughout, and Egan admitted to some misgiving about “prior-day notice” for some random inspections.

“For any anti-doping programme, any form of notice is less than ideal. I can understand there are practical difficulties in some cases. You could turn up somewhere and there might not be anyone around.

“My understanding is that it’s not prior-day notice for everything: it’s prior-day notice in certain circumstances. But we can understand how, in certain circumstances, prior notice may have to be given,” Egan added.

Plans to have a new anti-doping policy in place for the start of 2019, and the registration of foals, are likely to hinge on agreement between all parties at this Monday’s Horse Racing Ireland board meeting.

The proposed policy is being considered by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association and bodies representing owners and trainers, as well as Horse Racing Ireland, the IHRB and three sales companies.   

Philip Fenton’s first runner back finished out of the money at Killarney, but Special Cargo is entered to run again at Limerick on Thursday.

The controversial Co Tipperary-based trainer reportedly said this week: “We’ve got a handful in at the moment. Winter time is when we think we’ll have more horses in, but not for these summer months. Fingers crossed we’ll have something maybe nicer for the winter.” 

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