Friday, February 12, 2021
HRI has issued a statement today on Drug Testing in Irish Racing and announced a zero tolerance regime with enhanced measures which include:

Brian Kavanagh, CEO, Horse Racing Ireland Photo: INPHO/

  • 4000+ horses to be sampled by IHRB in Ireland in 2021
  • 600 samples to be taken at public auction
  • No-notice testing to be applied as IHRB veterinary team now granted Authorised Officer status
  • Tender to be published shortly for installation of CCTV in all racecourse stable yards

“Integrity around anti-doping is a top priority for the Irish racing and breeding industry. People who set out to intentionally break the rules and use prohibited substances will be identified and prosecuted. They have no place in Ireland’s world-renowned racing industry and all industry bodies are committed to zero tolerance in this area,” said Brian Kavanagh, CEO of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) today.

Mr Kavanagh was speaking at HRI’s announcement that new powers, new supports, and new funding will be deployed to ensure continuous improvement in the area of anti-doping. HRI will be working closely with all racing bodies to ensure that Ireland continues to operate to the best international standards.

The range of new measures reaffirms Horse Racing Ireland’s position in relation to drug testing within Irish horse racing and the wider thoroughbred industry. HRI also reaffirmed its commitment to resource and support an enhanced programme of anti-doping measures to ensure that Ireland operates to the best international standards.

Under new powers granted to the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, every thoroughbred in the country will in future be liable for testing without notice on both licensed (trainers) and unlicensed premises. These new powers of access conferred under Authorised Officer (AO) status will put the Irish regulatory regime on a par with the best in the world.

Speaking further on today’s announcement Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said,  “We know from the number of tests performed each year, and from the variety of testing methods used, that Ireland has a robust system which operates at or above agreed global standards.  Additionally, there is a stringent range of penalties that can be applied by the IHRB, which can go up to a lifetime ban for horses deliberately administered a substance prohibited at all times.”

“In 2021, in excess of 4000 samples will be taken from racehorses in Ireland by the IHRB, and in the region of 25% will be out of competition tests or tests taken before horses come under the care of a licensed trainer. All samples are tested in an internationally accredited reference laboratory. In addition, approximately a further 600 samples will be taken from horses for sale at public auction,” Mr Kavanagh added.

“However, this is an area that we can never be complacent about and Horse Racing Ireland has been working with the IHRB to bring about further improvements to the systems this year. Our efforts and investment remain focused on ensuring that Ireland’s €2bn equine industry, an industry that employs thousands of people and encourages significant foreign direct investment, operates one of the most comprehensive systems of testing of any racing or breeding jurisdiction in the world. This is as it should be, given the importance of the industry and the value of trade in Irish horses,” the CEO concluded.

The specific improvements identified for 2021 include:

  • Increased powers for the IHRB veterinary team, including access to unlicensed premises.
  • Authorised Officer status for designated IHRB officials means that every thoroughbred in the country will be liable for testing by the IHRB.
  • These tests will operate in a similar fashion to licensed premises and will take place without prior notice. The tests will involve blood, urine and hair samples.
  • A whole-of-life thoroughbred traceability system for equines, including 30-day Foal Notification, will be developed by HRI as a key priority project. This will involve working with a number of industry bodies and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
  • The 2021 foal crop will be the first to be issued with an e-passport which will allow for greater oversight of the horse population.
  • Once returned in training, horses will remain under the supervision of the IHRB at all times, including during the off season, until they are permanently retired or exported.
  • The Board of Horse Racing Ireland has re-affirmed its commitment to, and will provide funding for, the installation of CCTV cameras in the stable yards at every racecourse. Tender documents for this will be published shortly by the IHRB.
  • There will be increased transparency and consistency of disclosure around reports into testing, and the first of a twice-yearly activity report from the IHRB will be issued at the end of June.

Speaking further on the matter, Brian Kavanagh said,  “Irish horses compete internationally more than any other country and are tested without issue under many different regimes, which gives us confidence as to our systems. We welcome the increased powers granted to the IHRB which will further enhance the levels of out of competition and pre training testing in Ireland.

“We have seen from recently published figures for ownership and horses in training as well as the continued demand at public sales, that there is a high level of confidence in the Irish horse. Horse Racing Ireland will be working closely with the IHRB on anti-doping to ensure that this confidence continues to be well-placed and enduring.”

Denis Egan, Chief Executive of Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, said,
“The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board welcome the continuous support of Horse Racing Ireland and obviously share the goals of HRI, and everyone in the racing and breeding industry, to continue towards delivering a gold standard in equine anti-doping systems.”

“Anti-doping never stands still. Our strategy has always been to take the right sample from the right horse at the right time. This has been one of the main drivers of a greater move towards out-of-competition testing, which in 2019 represented 18% of all samples taken – up from 7% in 2016. In percentage terms the total number of runners tested in Ireland – at 10% – is comparable to other jurisdictions,” Mr Egan continued.

“The appointment of IHRB officials as Authorised Officers will give the IHRB powers to access any Thoroughbred which is bred to race, at any time. No racing authority has greater powers when it comes to inspections and sampling, and this will further enhance our ability to deliver an equine anti-doping programme that is one of the best in the world, Mr Egan concluded.

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