Turf Club CEO says drug test protocol agreement close

Body “optimistic” deal can be reached with Breeders Association in next two weeks

Philip Fenton: was disqualified for three years in 2014 for possession of banned animal substances. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

The Turf Club expects to have a protocol agreed within the next two weeks that will allow racing’s regulatory body carry out drug testing on stud farms.

The establishment of a mechanism which would allow Turf Club officials carry out such testing was a central recommendation of an Anti-Doping report released at the start of 2016.

It came from a 16 member Anti-Doping Task Force set up by Horse Racing Ireland and the Turf Club which included representatives from all sectors of the thoroughbred industry including breeders, trainers, owners and sales companies.

The Task Force was set up on the back of a number of steroids controversies which included trainer Philip Fenton being disqualified for three years in 2014 for possession of banned animal substances, one of which was an anabolic steroid.


John Hughes, a former Department of Agriculture veterinary inspector, was 'warned off' for five years  in relation to possession of a quantity of the banned steroid, Nitrotain.

In 2014, his brother, the high profile trainer, Pat Hughes, was convicted of possession of unauthorised animal remedies, including an anabolic steroid.

Despite the Task Force being described as an "absolute priority" by both HRI and the Turf Club when it was set up to ensure the reputation of Ireland's €1 billion racing and breeding industries, progress between the regulatory body and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association has been notably slow.

A major stumbling block has been the issue of notice, if any, that ITBA members should get before drug testing is carried out. The ITBA originally looked for up to seven days notice last year. Then they cut that to five.

The Breeders Association believes they are close to agreement now and the Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan had a similar view on Monday.

“We are nearly there. There are a few loose ends still but I’m optimistic we’ll get there and have a protocol agreed in the next two weeks,” he said. “After that I hope it will be sooner rather than later that testing is up and running.”

Egan acknowledged the slow progress of negotiations but insisted: “It’s important we get this agreement right. There’s no point rushing and coming up with something that doesn’t work. It’s important that what’s put in place will work

“At the moment there’s a document going back and forth and it has to go through various boards so it’s not possible to go as quickly as we’d like. But I’m optimistic.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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