Board holds special meeting on drug testing

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The Board of Horse Racing Ireland held a special meeting last week to consider the issue of drug testing in the Irish thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.

The board agreed to issue the following statement jointly with the Turf Club and INHS Committee.

The board noted with concern recent high profile cases involving licensed individuals. The board stressed that absolute priority will be given to tackling this issue and that any necessary measures will be taken in order to maintain the reputation of Ireland’s racing and bloodstock industry.

The board stated its unequivocal position that illegal performance-enhancing drugs have no place in the Irish racing and breeding industries. In particular, the board supported the position of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) that the use of anabolic steroids should not be permitted in or out of competition.

In this regard, the board welcomed the previous announcement of enhanced testing, including out of competition testing, to be undertaken by the Turf Club. The board noted that new protocols for drug testing and laboratory certification were being developed by the IFHA, and that this was a challenge which was being faced by racing and breeding authorities globally.

The board agreed to immediately establish an industry taskforce including representatives of the Turf Club, Association of Irish Racehorse Owners, Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association, Irish Racehorse Trainers Association and Sales companies to work with all parties to ensure that Ireland’s drug testing regime for racing and breeding operates to the highest international standards.

The board had previously commissioned a comprehensive review of Irish drug testing systems by Dr Terence Wan, head of laboratory of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which is due to be completed by the end of March 2015.

The board agreed that this review should inform long term decisions on the future for drug testing in the Irish racing and breeding sectors, including the level and type of investment that will be required to meet the new IFHA accreditation standards currently being developed.

Horse Racing Ireland chairman, Joe Keeling and Neville O’Byrne, senior steward of the Turf Club, stated: “We consider this to be a fundamental issue for the Irish racing and breeding industries.

“This is a global challenge which all racing and breeding authorities are facing, and Ireland must have a system that meets best international standards. It is a complex area, which requires an industry wide response, and for this reason the board has agreed to establish a new representative taskforce to ensure a co-ordinated and long-term plan for this area.”

Meanwhile, former champion jockey, Davy Russell and Philip Enright have lodged appeals relating to their five day bans imposed by stewards at Clonmel when Russell having lost his whip was accommodated by Enright allowing the former champion to take his whip on the JP McManus owned, Leave At Dawn – the later a well-supported favourite but after jumping poorly could only manage to finish eighth.

Russell and Enright were adjudged to have broken Rule 272 in relation to bringing racing into disrepute.

The bans will cause the riders to miss most of the valuable Christmas period, and include the weekend before Christmas plus the first three days of the Leopardstown and Limerick Festival meetings (December 20-21, 26-28).