HRI 'at one' with Turf Club over drug testing issue

Breeders’ association indicates flexibility over five-day notice for visits to stud farms

HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh: “Racing is the shop window but breeding, and the exporting of horses, is a very strong metric for us.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/INpho

HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh: “Racing is the shop window but breeding, and the exporting of horses, is a very strong metric for us.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/INpho

 

Horse Racing Ireland has said it is “at one” with the Turf Club over the importance of out-of-competition drug testing within the bloodstock industry and is keen for recommendations from last year’s Anti-Doping Task Force report to be implemented as soon as possible.

 A year after the task force report was published, talks between the Turf Club and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association are ongoing in relation to officials from racing’s regulatory body accessing stud farms in order to drug test horses.

 Unlike racing stables, breeding farms are not licensed by the Turf Club which has no jurisdiction over them.

 However a key recommendation of the task force report set up on the back of a series of steroid controversies – one of which resulted in the three year old disqualification of high-profile trainer, Philip Fenton in 2014 – is that protocols to allow testing be agreed between the Turf Club and the ITBA .

 HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh was one of the 16-member task force that published the report and he has described the overall doping control changes currently being implemented as a “sea change” which will invariably take time.

“We are at one with the Turf Club in terms of the importance of out of competition. We want to maintain the reputation for excellence that Irish horses have so that when people buy Irish they know they are buying clean and are buying quality. We would like the report implemented as soon as possible. But it is more important that it is implemented properly,” he said.

 A sticking point in discussions between the Turf Club and the ITBA is the issue of any notice which may be given before testing is carried out. Racing’s integrity service want visits to be unannounced but the breeders’ body has said it wants its members to get five days notice.

 However the ITBA spokesman, Shane O’Dwyer, stressed on Tuesday that his organisation is fully prepared to sit down and discuss the notice issue further with the Turf Club.

Five days

“That’s what we agreed with the Turf Club last March, when we originally said there should be seven days notice, and they didn’t seem to have a problem with that. But there’s nothing signed off and I’m not saying we will stick rigidly to five days. We will be sitting down with the Turf Club soon and I’m sure it will come up again,” he said.

 O’Dwyer said he believes there is no problem with anabolic steroids in Ireland’s world renowned breeding industry.

 He also pointed out the Turf Club has never had jurisdiction over breeding establishments in Ireland, and still doesn’t, something Brian Kavanagh suspects may be behind any delay in organising a protocol with breeders getting used to any potential new regime.

“This was never going to happen overnight. Implementing change takes time. We have seen this around the world. These are issues which aren’t exclusive to Ireland. But the task force report went further than others in recommending lifetime bans because we want to send out a signal,” he said.

“The racing and breeding sectors are hugely important to the Irish economy. Racing is the shop window but breeding, and the exporting of horses, is a very strong metric for us.

“Like the food sector, the traceability of animals, from when they’re born and registered, and through their racing and breeding careers, if necessary, is vital. We can see the most effective drugs control is out of competition testing and we are keen to see it implemented.

“Getting this in place though isn’t straightforward. Some steps from the report have been implemented. Some are in the process of being implemented. I think the appointment of Dr Lynn Hillyer in a new position as head of anti-doping for instance has had a very positive impact.

“The task force report was intended to be transformative and that transformation is taking place. In relation to the speed of it we will sit down with the Turf Club in the next few weeks and find out where we’re at in terms of implementation. But we’re very anxious to work with them,” Kavanagh added.

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