Irish Greyhound Board's findings leave more questions than answers

The Irish Greyhound Board’s recently published list of ‘adverse analytical findings’ has dominated the on-track talk in the last week or so, but I question whether now is the right time to be talking about it.

As I see it, the next steps are more important than the last ones, as the report leaves far more questions than answers.

First - and it’s important to note this - these are ‘adverse analytical findings’ reported by a Bord na gCon-approved laboratory, and not, as yet, guilty verdicts.

Under the changed legislation, such findings are being made available and, until we have evidence of the next step, we know not what will become of them. For now, the greyhounds involved are all disqualified from racing until able to provide a negative sample in a trial run.

In this specific instance, 13 ‘adverse analytical findings’ were reported, with four prohibited substances identified. Chlorpromazine was found in one instance, caffeine in two, Butylhyoscine in two, and Pentoarbital in eight.

Let’s clarify some things, as best we can, so what transpires over the coming months can be digested more clearly in our own heads.

First, my understanding of pentobarbital, which was the most prevalent substance in the findings, is that it is a barbiturate, which, typically, is used as a sedative, a pre-anaesthetic, or to control convulsions. Reportedly, it has been used in executions of convicted criminals and as a veterinary anaesthetic agent.

The latter, of course, is of most interest in this sport, as there seems to be something of an acceptance that it can be present in the meat which is fed to greyhounds.

However, it is my understanding, from guidelines sent out to trainers in the past few months, such a defence will no longer be accepted. The literature states, with regard to the use of contaminated meats: “Feeding of such contaminated products will not serve as a defence but rather as an aggravating factor to the detection of an adverse analytical finding in any proceedings brought under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958, and in particular at hearings before the independent Control Committee i.e. contaminated meats are not considered normal or ordinary feeding within the IGB definition of a prohibited substance under the 2007 Racing Regulations.”

Keener legal eyes than mine may unearth a loophole, but it seems unequivocal that the defence will no longer be tolerated.

And there is nothing in there to suggest a general acceptance that traces of pentobarbital, procaine or any other prohibited substance in a greyhound’s sample must be coming from the food chain. Of course, it may come from the food chain but we need to know whether the drug, in small doses, could act a booster, or could be a masking agent for something more sinister?

Unquestionably, the presence of a prohibited substance should be enough to allow punishment. The intent, or otherwise, with which it entered a greyhound’s system, however difficult to ascertain, is important for just penalty to be awarded.

I’m firmly in the camp which wants to see serial transgressors of the system punished, but what we have right now does not constitute a whole lot.

With that, I think it’s necessary that what has been reported thus far does not prompt a witch hunt, rather a constructive move towards levelling the playing field. After all, this is the first set of adverse findings reported and we can assume, without wishing to be pessimistic, there will be more in the coming months. There will be much more to deliberate when the process moves to the next step.

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Round two of the GMHD Insurances Juvenile Classic takes place tonight in Tralee and has a lot to live up to after last week’s opening round, which delivered stunning times.

It’s 10 years since Coventry Bees made a winning debut at Waterford, posting fastest time ever by a debutant in Ireland - 28.34 – but that seems a world away now.

Everything has moved on and there have been a number of quicker debuts since, but last week’s heats of this stake brought it to a new level, with two greyhounds breaking 28.15, and five of the eight heat winners posting 28.50 or better.

Lenson Rocky (then Keen Move and trained by Ger Reidy) went quickest of all, leading all the way for a 15-length victory in 28.12, but Sidarian Eska was just a single spot quicker when, remarkably, winning his heat by just half a length, from Double Oh Seven. Surely that must be the fastest ever unsuccessful debut in Ireland. No ignominy there, just another top prospect, and the two re-oppose in tonight’s third quarter-final, in which sparks should really fly.

  • Congratulations to Sheila Spillane, who was recently recognised for her life-long dedication to camogie in Killeagh and Cork with the Evening Echo Hall of Fame Award. Spillane is as well-known for her success with greyhounds, which she trains along with her son-in-law, JJ Fennelly, and most of which run under the Burgess prefix. An award thoroughly deserved for a remarkable lady.


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