HRI chief hopes drug-testing protocol will be in place by Christmas

Brian Kavanagh says new task force chairman will not be connected to industry

Horse Racing Ireland chief Brian Kavanagh didn’t rule out a new system being in place by Christmas. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Horse Racing Ireland’s chief executive has insisted the deadlock in negotiations between the breeding industry and the Turf Club over a proposed new drug-testing protocol will be sorted out and he didn’t rule out a new system being in place by Christmas.

Two months ago Brian Kavanagh was adamant a protocol between the breeding sector and sales companies, which would allow Turf Club officials to carry out testing, would be up and running before the end of the year.

Such a protocol was a central recommendation of an anti-doping task force report at the start of 2016. The task force, containing representatives from all sections of the bloodstock industry, was formed in the wake of a number of steroids controversies.

However despite prolonged negotiations, talks between the Turf Club, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (ITBA) and the various sales companies, as well as intervention by HRI, has resulted in no agreement and the impasse has prompted the task force panel to be recalled but this time with a new chairman.


Kavanagh said on Monday that a search for a new chairman is ongoing in an effort to resolve problems which primarily revolve around the issue of jurisdiction. Stud farms are not licensed by the Turf Club so racing’s regulatory body has no authority to enter them.


“The main issue is that breeders are not licensed by the Turf Club. They are subject to inspection by the Department of Agriculture. And of course the ITBA doesn’t speak for all breeders either so it’s complex in that respect.

“But I’m sure it will be resolved and a key element will be traceability of horses throughout their lifetime. And that’s not just in relation to doping control. There are welfare and organisational housekeeping elements to it as well. “I still wouldn’t rule out a resolution by Christmas either. There’s a lot of pieces to the jigsaw but a lot of matters have been addressed and are being addressed,” the HRI chief executive said.

The recall of the 16-member task force panel is an attempt to help resolve these issues. It was originally set up by HRI and included representatives from all sectors of the thoroughbred industry including breeders, trainers, owners and sales companies.

Its report recommended lifetime bans for horses illicitly administered substances which are prohibited at all times. It also urged increased testing and better laboratory facilities in Ireland as well as a system to be drawn up between the Turf Club and the ITBA to test on farms.

It recommended too that sales companies make it a requirement that any horse entered for sale is liable for testing under a Turf Club programme.

Independent chair

The Turf Club's senior steward Meta Osborne chaired the original task force but although she will remain on the panel, she has called for a new independent chairman to be appointed.

Kavanagh said on Monday that any new chairman will "not be connected to any of the industry bodies" and that he, Osborne and HRI chairman Joe Keeling are in the process of trying to find a suitable candidate.

“Meta felt she can participate more in the task force if she’s not constrained by being chair and she supported the idea of an independent chair,” Kavanagh said.

“There is a specific issue in regard to jurisdiction which needs to be teased out and the idea is to get that group back around the table rather than speaking to each other bilaterally,” he added. “But there is goodwill on all sides and breeders more than anyone are keen to get this resolved.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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