A lifetime ban for any horse who has been illicitly administered prohibited substances and increased frequency of out of competition testing are two of the main recommendations from a report published on Thursday by Horse Racing Ireland.
The Irish Thoroughbred Industry Anti-Doping Task Force was set up following the disqualification of trainer Philip Fenton in 2014 after he was found to have banned animal substances, including anabolic steroids, in his possession.
In response the HRI board, in conjunction with the Turf Club, established a 16-member industry-wide Anti-Doping Task Force, chaired by HRI vice-chair and now senior steward of the Turf Club, Meta Osborne, to assess the issues.
The findings of the report have now been made public with the main recommendation being a lifetime ban from Irish racing for horses administered a banned drug at any time, anywhere in the world.
They also advocate no automatic therapeutic use exemption for anabolic steroids, while underlining the need for the Irish racing and breeding industries to have access to a laboratory which meets the best international standards, is based in Ireland and operates under either a permanent relationship with, or a long-term support from, the Irish racing authorities.
Augmented out of competition testing and a significant increase in the number of samples collected and analysed each year to achieve operational and cost efficiencies are two other key points.
A single national equine drug control laboratory should be considered, according to the report, with the need for the Turf Club to establish a dedicated Anti-Doping Unit also underlined.
Educational programmes and clear guidelines as well as ongoing research into the issue of doping are also recommended, with the Task Force reconvening in six months to review progress.
HRI has approved expenditure of over €1.8 million to purchase new laboratory equipment and ensure appropriate facilities while it will also support the cost of additional sampling, higher levels of out of competition testing and the creation of a new the anti-doping unit through its integrity budget.
Brian Kavanagh, HRI chief executive, said: "Setting up the Anti-Doping Task Force was vital in order to protect the reputation of our racing and breeding industry, and Horse Racing Ireland welcomes the consensus reached and the strong recommendations that have been set out.
“The industry is worth over €1 billion annually to the Irish economy, and our international position as a world leader must be maintained.
“HRI will support the recommendations of the Task Force through the significant and continuing investment that is being announced today.
“The issue of illegal performance-enhancing drugs is one that needs to be addressed worldwide and Ireland is now to the fore in tackling this problem head on. Our primary concern is to ensure that Ireland’s racing and breeding industries have drug testing systems that meet the best international standards.”
Osborne was pleased to see the recommendations being implemented so swiftly in the sport.
She said: “I am delighted that the Anti-Doping Task Force has produced an agreed consensus statement and report which the industry has been able to support and unite behind.
“The key objectives are to eliminate cheating and to ensure that horse welfare is paramount.
“The announcement of a lifetime ban for any horse found to have been illicitly administered any substance “prohibited at all times“ including anabolic steroids is an unequivocal statement that cheats will not be tolerated within Irish racing.
“The Turf Club will continue to work with Horse Racing Ireland in this vital area to ensure that we have the resources and structures in place to maintain the highest levels of integrity in our sport, and thereby to safe-guard the international reputation of the Irish thoroughbred industry.”