New doping control policy being examined by racing’s representative bodies

Issues over jurisdiction have caused delays in implementing industry-wide measures


A proposed industry-wide policy on doping control in Ireland includes provision for vets from Irish racing’s regulatory body to carry out tests on horses throughout the thoroughbred industry here.

The ‘Industry Wide Policy On Prohibited Substances/Doping Control’ is currently being examined by representative groups throughout racing and breeding ahead of a vital Horse Racing Ireland board meeting next week.

A protocol that would allow Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) vets carry out testing throughout the industry, including on premises unlicensed by the IHRB, such as stud farms and pre-training yards, was recommended in an Anti-Doping Task Force report issued two and a half years ago.

However, disagreements over jurisdiction have dogged negotiations and produced such delays that the Task Force, and its new chairman, Colm Gaynor, had to be reconvened late last year.

The new policy, which has been seen by The Irish Times, allows for a lifetime ban for any horse found to have tested positive in any country for prohibited substances such as anabolic steroids.

The document, which it’s hoped will be signed up to by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association, three sales companies and groups representing owners and trainers, also states “there shall be no therapeutic use exemption permitted for any prohibited substances”.

On the controversial issue of notice given by testers before entering a premises it proposes both random testing – with “prior day notification” – and targeted inspections where there are grounds for suspicion that will see IHRB vets accompanied by Department of Agriculture personnel when making unannounced visits.

Central to such a system will be a Service Level Agreement (SLA) which will “enable some or all of the IHRB’s veterinary officers be appointed authorised officers for the purposes of section 10 of the Animal Remedies Act 1993”.

However, it is proposed that if IHRB officials do uncover a positive test the matter will be handed over to the Department of Agriculture to pursue if it chooses to.

The scope of the proposed anti-doping policy has been widened to make provision for the traceability of every thoroughbred throughout its life.

It is proposed HRI, IHRB and Weatherbys Ireland, which registers the thoroughbred population here, will pursue the introduction of a database which can follow horses from their notification as foals.

To ensure traceability, breeders will be required to notify Weatherbys of a foal within 30 days of birth with submission of a blood sample. From then on every horse will be liable to testing “regardless of their whereabouts”.

Increased out of competition testing is planned under the new doping control system, including in relation to point-to-point yards, and the intention is “the annual number of samples analysed by the IHRB will increase from the current level of circa 4,000 to a higher level to be determined by the IHRB as deemed to be appropriate for the Irish horse population.”

To facilitate that, trainers will be required to notify HRI of the whereabouts of any horse when it is being returned out of training.

The thorny issue of jurisdiction is also referenced in a clause of the proposed policy which states: “It is accepted that, as thoroughbred breeders are not licensed by the IHRB, they are not subject to the Rules of Racing.

“Without prejudice to the IHRB’s existing powers, it is acknowledged that this agreement does not and cannot extend in any new way the jurisdiction of the IHRB to thoroughbred breeders.

“It is however accepted that the normal procedures of the Animal Remedies Act and Regulations will apply in relation to findings of prohibited substances taken by authorised officers of the IHRB under a service level agreement.”

The Anti-Doping Task Force was set up in 2014 after a number of steroids controversies. They included trainer Philip Fenton being disqualified for three years after pleading guilty to possession of unauthorised medicines, including anabolic steroids, at his Co Tipperary yard in 2012.

The protracted nature of formulating a new drugs policy is emphasised by how Fenton, who has been given a licence again, could have his first runner back as a trainer at Killarney on Thursday. Fenton has entered the James Davern-owned Secret Cargo for a bumper race.

Fenton’s three-year ban finished in November and at the time he reportedly indicated he had no plans to resume training.

The former top amateur rider, whose successes as a trainer included landing the 2014 Hennessy Gold Cup with Last Instalment, owned by the Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud, had his application to train again approved by the IHRB’s licensing committee.

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