Irish racing regulator reiterates ‘zero tolerance’ stance on doping

Leading trainer Jim Bolger again questions how rigorous testing is in this country


Irish racing’s regulator has defended itself against criticism by top trainer Jim Bolger and insisted it has a “zero tolerance” stance on doping.

At the weekend, Bolger repeated his belief that a level playing field doesn’t exist in the sport here when it comes to drugs.

He referenced one of the most infamous doping cases in sporting history when declaring that “there will be a Lance Armstrong in Irish racing”.

He also said he knows the identity of drug cheats, although he didn’t name names.

Last year Bolger demanded more rigorous testing by the IHRB when he described drug cheats as Irish racing’s number one problem.

On the eve of Royal Ascot, where Bolger saddles the fancied Poetic Flare in the St James’s Palace Stakes on Tuesday, his comments have once more brought the issue of doping in Irish racing under the spotlight.

On Monday he again questioned how rigorous and fit for purpose the regulator’s testing is.

One of the sport’s most high-profile figures said in an interview that it should be possible to find cheats with the tests that are available.

Bolger suggested an absence of positive tests for anabolic steroids could possibly be due to all samples not being tested or the testing itself not being fit for purpose.

He also said his belief that cheating is going on is mainly based on intelligence which he has accumulated.

Having not commented on Sunday, the IHRB responded to Bolger’s latest comments on Monday.

In a statement, it said it wanted to reaffirm to all stakeholders, the racing public and the general public that it is committed to the highest standards of integrity.

“Following comments made recently, the IHRB can once again stress there is a zero-tolerance approach to doping in Irish racing and we operate to the highest level using LGC Laboratories in Newmarket, who are one of five International Federation Horseracing Authorities certified laboratories in the world, and the same laboratory used by the British Horseracing Authority.

“The IHRB will continue our extensive testing programme with 5,000 samples in 2021, once again including every race winner, additional race-day samples, out of competition samples and now also at unlicenced premises following on from the receipt of Authorised Officer status for 12 employees of the IHRB last month which allows us to access and sample any thoroughbred at any time in Ireland.

“Each and every one of the samples taken are sent to LGC for analysis and any sample that returns an adverse analytical finding is acted upon, and details published, following our disciplinary process. LGC have been world leaders in anabolic steroid detection for over 60 years and most recently have led detection of these drugs in hair,” they said.

The IHRB also stated that about 25 per cent of samples will be out of competition tests, including tests from unlicenced premises.

Since receiving warrant cards from the Department of Agriculture last month, it said IHRB officials have sampled at studs, consignors, pre-training yards as well as at the premises of licenced trainers.

The IHRB’s chief executive, Denis Egan, said: “There is no room for complacency when it comes to equine anti-doping.

“The IHRB have shown that by significant increases in testing over the last number of years, and through collaboration with LGC we have been able to take advantage of the science available.

“Our focus is on risk based and intelligence led strategy which directs us to get the right sample from the right horse at the right time. The appointment of IHRB officials as authorised officers further strengthens that.”

The statement also included comments from the chief executive of Irish racing’s ruling body, Horse Racing Ireland, Brian Kavanagh.

“Ireland is a global leader in racing and breeding, and that position brings with it a responsibility to always be vigilant when it comes to anti-doping,” he said.

“HRI considers it crucial that continuous investment is made in ensuring that testing is constantly increasing in both numbers and agility, utilising the most modern techniques, and is of an internationally accredited standard.

“HRI has consistently increased its investment in anti-doping through the IHRB in recent years, and that will continue to be the case.

“This is not a closed industry so I would encourage anybody who believes that there are people operating outside of the rules, to contact the IHRB and make their concerns known.”

The IHRB also encouraged anyone with information concerning integrity to use a confidential line and all information would dealt with in confidence.

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