Racing watchdog working towards drug testing agreement

Body facing tight finish to have accord in place with Department of Agriculture

Racing officials have countered criticism of the repeated delays in implementing formally a new anti-doping regime by stressing the need to get it done right rather than done quickly.

Racing officials have countered criticism of the repeated delays in implementing formally a new anti-doping regime by stressing the need to get it done right rather than done quickly.

 

Irish racing’s regulatory body is facing a race against time to have an agreement in place with the Department of Agriculture that may allow drug testing on unlicensed premises to begin by the start of 2020.

The Industry Wide Policy on Prohibited Substances & Doping Control, which was unanimously approved by the board of Horse Racing Ireland in July of last year, pledged to introduce traceability of thoroughbreds throughout their lives.

A key element of that is provision of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that allows officials from the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) be involved in random and intelligence-led testing.

That would allow IHRB anti-doping personnel to play a role in testing throughout racing and on unlicensed premises such as stud farms.

Such testing on stud farms was predicted to begin in the second half of this year once registrations of 2019’s foal crop were in place.

It also requires agreement on a protocol between the IHRB and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association which had been expected to be completed earlier this year.

Talks between both bodies on such a protocol are still ongoing, however, and an IHRB spokesman confirmed on Monday that an SLA with the department has not been finalised.

“There was a positive meeting with the department a few weeks ago and we’re fleshing out details at the moment. The SLA and the protocol are slightly different. The SLA is to do with the department obviously and that’s needed to get in and do a test. But there’s also the protocol as to how that test will take place. We need to meet with the breeders and those meetings are being scheduled at the moment,” he said.

The industry wide policy was a result of an anti-doping task force report issued at the start of 2016. That was set up on the back of several high-profile controversies involving anabolic steroids.

In 2014 trainer Philip Fenton was disqualified by the IHRB for three years after being found guilty on eight charges of possessing banned animal medicines, including anabolic steroids, after a raid on his Co Tipperary stables by department personnel in early 2012.

A 16-member industry-wide task force was set up and produced a report that recommended lifetime bans for any horse illicitly administered prohibited substances, increased out of competition testing and traceability of thoroughbreds throughout their lives.

Key to that ambition was a protocol allowing racing regulators to be able to enter premises not licensed by them.

Impasse over jurisdiction

Progress on that matter has appeared to stall on a number of occasions since, including in 2017 when the Task Force had to be reconvened under a new chairman, the former chief veterinary officer, Colm Gaynor.

He appeared to help resolve the impasse over jurisdiction through a legislative process involving an SLA. That is defined by government as contract between a service provider and a customer and they are used to transfer statutory responsibility.

During the summer the delay in formulating such an SLA for racing was blamed on the department coming under pressure to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

Fenton was granted a licence to resume training in July of 2018.

Racing officials have countered criticism of the repeated delays in implementing formally a new anti-doping regime by stressing the need to get it done right rather than done quickly.

The IHRB received an extra €400,000 in funding from HRI this year which brought its budget for integrity to €9.5 million.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.