Pat Wall: Horse Sport Ireland must remain vigilant

Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) chairman Pat Wall believes the organisation is doing enough to ensure equestrian sport is clean, but concedes “we have to continue to be vigilant”.

He commented after HSI gave the Irish Examiner details of its testing regime for 2014, showing there were two equine controlled medication violations. The non-steroidal, anti-inflamatory drug phenylbutazone, ie ‘bute’, was the substance involved in both cases.

“There are two types of substances, those that are banned and have no place in a horse at any time; then there are substances which are permitted in a horse, but not during competition. Bute is a common enough drug used in a performance animal for minor injuries, such as an athlete would use ibuprofen or aspirin. It is not a crime to use it, but it should not be used in competition. Competitors need to realise it can take seven to 10 days to clear the system and they must leave ample time for this to happen.

“While these are minor infringements, they have the potential to generate adverse publicity under the headline ‘drugs in sport’. I understand that this newspaper is covering the issue responsibly, but sensational coverage can discourage sponsors from becoming involved in the sport. Why would a sponsor want its brand involved in adverse publicity? Also, we are trying to market Ireland as the land of the horse, the go-to place for a horse for all level of rider, and horses being drugged has the potential to damage trade and people’s confidence in terms of purchasing an Irish horse.”

Wall conceded that cost is a factor in determining HSI’s level of response.

“It’s very expensive to do these tests and every infringement needs to be highlighted, so people can learn from the mistakes of others.”

Asked if he feels there are riders deliberately setting out to artificially-enhance performance, Wall replied: “There is no evidence of that. Most people in Ireland are sellers and horses are tested when being sold. So why risk a sale and more-so the person’s reputation.”

However, he said: “One shoddy operate could destroy the reputation of the entire sector, so it can’t be tolerated.

“I urge people to be vigilant and not to turn a blind eye to people doing the wrong thing. Certainly, if we found banned substances, we would have to come down with severe sanctions.”

Last year’s two cases occurred, in the discipline of show jumping at Galway County Show, and at an Irish Pony Society event at Kilteel Show, Co Kildare.

The former involved the horse My Irish Annie, with Shane Goggins from Co Mayo named as the ‘person responsible’. The infringement at Kilteel Show concerned Lanaway Sparkle, with James McComiskey described as a “parent/guardian of a minor” named by HSI as the ’person responsible’.

According to the HSI, “as per the ECM rules, both parties elected for the administration route, available for a first violation, for the payment of a fixed penalty... a €500 monetary fine and disqualification and loss of prizemoney, if applicable. In the case of a minor, the €500 fine does not apply”.

The testing took place at the Irish Equine Centre.

The Federation Equestre Internationale says that “controlled medications are acknowledged as substances with therapeutic veterinary benefits, but are not permitted during FEI events because of the potential for their misuse”.

Last year, HSI said it conducted 100 tests. While it did not give a total cost, the average for a day’s testing including vet, courier and lab was €1,200.

It declined to say if it would be increasing the level of testing this year, saying it would be “subject to continued affiliate contributions”.

In the 2013, the HSI national anti-doping programme legal and testing costs amounted to approximately €29,000. In total, 114 horses were sampled, at 22 venues and over 26 days. Just one ECM sanction was issued, with the animal being KEC Jizelle and the person responsible named as Emily Horgan, from Co Meath. She too elected for the ‘administration’ route.

  • Thomas Ryan got off to a good start yesterday when fourth with Quite Zero in a speed class at the five-star show in Basel, Switzerland.

Six Irish riders will battle for the 3.5m Swiss francs on offer, among them Bertram Allen, who has risen to 15th place in the Longines World Rankings. Also present are Cameron Hanley, Jessica Kürten, Denis Lynch and Billy Twomey.

  • Carbery Pony Club is promising fantastic prizes from sponsors at its forthcoming show jumping day, including rugs, equine medication and nutritional products, even shoeing for a pony. The Area 5 event takes place at the West Cork Equine Centre, on Sunday, January 18.

There will be a nations-cup-style team competition, an inter-club team contest, an accumulator, as well as a micro and mini classes for tots, with rosettes for every competitor.

Spokesperson Sue McCarthy urged all clubs in the area to show their support for the event. Contact: 087-6768701.


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