‘Cheats will not be tolerated in Irish racing’ was the hard-hitting message from a report yesterday published by Horse Racing Ireland and constructed by the Irish Thoroughbred Industry Anti-Doping Task Force, which recommended imposing lifetime bans on horses found to have been illicitly administered prohibited substances.

The Irish Thoroughbred Industry Anti-Doping Task Force was set up following the disqualification of trainer Philip Fenton in 2014 after he was found to have banned animal substances, including anabolic steroids, in his possession.

The report sets out several strong recommendations to enhance the integrity of the sport, including increased out-of-competition testing, while the lifetime ban applies to Irish Racing for horses administered a banned substance at anytime, anywhere in the world.

In a clampdown on the use of illegal substances and anabolic steroids, the report also advocated no automatic therapeutic-use exemption, while also underling the need for the racing and breeding industries in this country to have access to a laboratory, in Ireland, which meets the highest international standards and operates under either a permanent relationship with or long-term support from Irish racing authorities.

According to the report, a single national equine drug control lab should be considered, with the need for the Turf Club to establish a dedicated Anti-Doping Unit.

In this regard, HRI has approved expenditure of more than €1.8m to purchase new equipment, and to ensure appropriate facilities, while also supporting the cost of additional sampling, increased out-of-competition testing, and the creation of the new unit through its integrity budget.

HRI Chief Executive Brian Kavanagh said: “Setting up the Anti-Doping Task Force was vital in order to protect the reputation of our racing and breeding industry, and Horse Racing Ireland welcomes the consensus reached and the strong recommendations that have been set out.

“The industry is worth over €1bn annually to the Irish economy, and our international position as a world leader must be maintained. HRI will support the recommendations of the Task Force through the significant and continuing investment that is being announced today.

“The issue of illegal performance-enhancing drugs is one that needs to be addressed worldwide and Ireland is now to the fore in tackling this problem head on. Our primary concern is to ensure that Ireland’s racing and breeding industries have drug testing systems that meet the best international standards.”

Meta Osborne, HRI vice-chairperson and senior steward of the Turf Club, who chaired the Task Force, said: “I am delighted that the Anti-Doping Task Force has produced an agreed consensus statement and report which the industry has been able to support and unite behind.

“The key objectives are to eliminate cheating and to ensure that horse welfare is paramount.

“The announcement of a lifetime ban for any horse found to have been illicitly administered any substance ‘prohibited at all times’, including anabolic steroids, is an unequivocal statement that cheats will not be tolerated within Irish racing.

“The Turf Club will continue to work with Horse Racing Ireland in this vital area to ensure that we have the resources and structures in place to maintain the highest levels of integrity in our sport, and thereby to safe-guard the international reputation of the Irish thoroughbred industry.”


Last week, I wrote about 'small is beautiful' as a key to an improved environment for all living things after this Covid crisis is finally over. As I wrote, I saw, in the mind's eye, the village where I live in west Cork and from which my wife and I are temporarily exiled.Damien Enright: Community spirit can ensure we pull through - together

Fifty years ago, a fox was spotted in Dublin’s St. Stephen’s Green. The unfortunate animal was chased by local ‘gurriers’. It took refuge in a tree but was promptly stoned to death.Richard Collins: Wildlife taking back the streets of our cities

The north pier on Cape Clear has been eerily quiet these last few months as no visitors disembark. The ferry is not unloading boatloads of tourists from Baltimore, 45 minutes away, or from Schull, as it would normally.The Islands of Ireland: Cape Clear tells its side of the story

If the Donegal postman and amateur weather forecaster has it right, we could be in for water shortages in the coming months. Michael Gallagher, who predicted the scorching summer of 2018 and the 2010 freeze-up, says we’ll have a ‘lovely’ summer.Donal Hickey: Demand for water to soar

More From The Irish Examiner