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.
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.”