Tag Archive for: Denis Egan

Irish officials defend drugs record as committee hearings start

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board launched a staunch defence of its record concerning drug testing in the first of a series of hearings in front of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food, and the Marine.

Members of the committee put questions to Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, Denis Egan, chief executive of the IHRB, and Dr Lynn Hillyer, chief veterinary officer at the IHRB.

The meetings were arranged following concern over claims in a newspaper interview by leading trainer Jim Bolger that racing would have its own “Lance Armstrong” moment regarding drug use in the sport.

It began with Kavanagh reading out an opening statement in which he stressed the importance of the racing industry to Ireland’s economy and “as such, the reputation and integrity of the product is of paramount importance, so the issue of drug testing is an important one with significant funds invested annually in this area”.

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland (PA Wire)

He went on to say: “HRI sees its role as ensuring that the IHRB has sufficient resources, both financial, human and capital to carry out its responsibilities to the level expected of a major racing nation – and we support the IHRB to constantly improve their capacity in this area.”

Kavanagh also reported that all winners in Ireland are tested, that there has been an increase in out-of-competition testing and tests are also carried out at sales, studs and point-to-point meetings.

He said that “spending on doping control has increased by 27 per cent in the last four years, and Horse Racing Ireland has advised the IHRB that funding will never be an issue for meaningful initiatives to improve capability or increase capacity in this area”.

Egan, who recently announced he was taking early retirement, stated: “The IHRB’s Equine Anti-Doping programme has developed into a sophisticated and extensive risk-based and intelligence-led strategy, in which it is not just the numbers of samples which matter but from what horse they are taken, where and when.”

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board is based at the Curragh
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board is based at the Curragh (PA Wire)

Egan also addressed accusations that the IHRB had not acted upon information they were given by a reported whistleblower.

“Any information received by us is assessed, categorised and actioned as appropriate,” he said.

“It is vitally important to the IHRB that those directly and indirectly involved in the industry understand this and the fact that they can provide any information to us in a confidential manner via the confidential hotline, email or by contacting our officials.”

In concluding his opening speech, Egan said: “We have a top-class anti-doping team headed up by Dr Lynn Hillyer – and while we continue to evidence that there is no systematic attempt to cheat through doping in Irish racing, we will continue, with the assistance of the industry and those outside, to effectively detect, disrupt and deter such behaviour. It will not be tolerated – we will continue to seek it out – and where discovered, we will take all actions within our power to combat it without fear or favour.”

Like Egan, Hillyer took issue with the claims of inaction.

She said: “The process is very simple. The information can come in via a number of routes, but once it lands on a desk it is dealt with.

“We don’t care how it comes in, but the important thing is that it comes in. We need to differentiate between information coming in and hearsay. I’m not saying we disregard either, but we have to process it and assess it – that is basically converting information into intelligence, and we work very closely with the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) now. Every piece of information is logged.

“One of the things that rankled the most reading the piece last week was the six horses sold from Ireland to the UK who were alleged to have traces of anabolic steroids.

“We were alleged to be doing nothing about it, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The minute that information came to the BHA they acted on it and communicated with us – we were across it and we were prepared to act.

“They did the most extensive piece of work I think I’ve ever seen. They analysed tail hair, mane hair – they analysed samples repeatedly, and there was nothing.”

Thursday’s meeting was scheduled to last two hours. But not all questions were asked, and it will reconvene on July 20 to address the remaining areas of interest.

On Tuesday there will be another meeting, with representatives of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association and representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine.

Denis Egan to take early retirement from IHRB role

Denis Egan is to take early retirement and step down from his role as chief executive of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board.

The 60-year-old has spent more than 25 years working for the regulator, with nearly two decades at the helm. He will, however, stand aside from September 30.

Egan joined the Turf Club in 1995 and became CEO in 2001. When the Turf Club became the IHRB in 2018 he took on the role of CEO at the new body.

“Irish racing has an enviable reputation worldwide, both for its fairness and integrity and has enjoyed huge success at home and around the world,” said Egan.

“I am proud that the Turf Club, and more recently the IHRB, has had a significant role to play in this regard. I believe we now have a strong platform in place to build and grow for the future and I believe the time is right to hand over to a successor to take the organisation to the next level.

“I would like to thank the members of the Turf Club and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee and particularly the staff of the IHRB for their professionalism and indeed their support down through the years.”

Harry McCalmont, chairman of the IHRB, said: “Denis has made a huge contribution to our organisation, and indeed to the Irish horseracing industry in general both at home and abroad.

“He is highly regarded throughout the world of horseracing and has served the sport well both in Ireland and internationally. Announcing his decision now allows us to identify his successor in a planned way and we will commence this process soon.

“While we are sorry to see him leave, we fully respect his decision and would like to wish him well for the future.”

CCTV to be installed at all Irish racecourse stable yards

CCTV cameras are to be installed in every racecourse stable yard in Ireland as part of a range of new anti-doping measures to be introduced.

Leopardstown is currently the only one of the 26 tracks to have such equipment, a statistic which has come into wider focus following the recent high-profile case involving trainer Charles Byrnes.

The County Limerick-based trainer is awaiting a verdict from the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s appeals panel after contesting the decision to suspend his licence for six months and fine him €1,000.

HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh (left) has detailed the new powers to be introduced to assist in anti-doping
HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh (left) has detailed the new powers to be introduced to assist in anti-doping (PA)

Byrnes was handed the penalties after one of his horses tested positive for a prohibited substance following a race in which he was pulled up at Tramore on October 18, 2018.

The urine sample of Viking Hoard was found to contain hydroxyethylpromazinehydroxide (HEPS), a metabolite of acepromazine (ACP), which is a sedative and forbidden under the rules of racing.

The sedative is believed to have been administered in the stable yard on course by person or persons unknown while Byrnes and his son left the horse unattended for a brief period.

The Horse Racing Ireland board said it will provide funding for the installation of CCTV cameras in the stable yards at every racecourse, with tender documents to be published shortly by the IHRB.

In announcing a zero-tolerance regime, HRI intends to sample 4,000 plus horses in Ireland this year, with 600 samples to be taken at public auction and no-notice testing to be applied as the IHRB veterinary team has been granted authorised office status.

“Integrity around anti-doping is a top priority for the Irish racing and breeding industry,” said HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh.

“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.”

He 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 work closely with all racing bodies to ensure Ireland continues to operate to the best international standards.

Under new powers granted to the 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

“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,” said Kavanagh.

“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 4,000 samples will be taken from racehorses in Ireland by the IHRB, and in the region of 25 per cent 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.

“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 €2billion 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.

“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.”

Denis Egan, chief executive of the IHRB, 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 per cent of all samples taken – up from seven per cent in 2016. In percentage terms the total number of runners tested in Ireland – at 10 per cent – is comparable to other jurisdictions.

“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.”