Positive drug tests in Ireland last year up more than five times on 2017

POSTED ON  |  07-03-2019

Lynn Hillyer
More than five times as many horses tested positive for banned substances in 2018 compared to the year before with a further seven cases pending from the end of the year. In the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board's (IRHB) 2018 statistics, a figure of 27 breaches were recorded and the authority's chief executive Denis Egan has confirmed the number includes seven pending cases, including another cobalt breach.

In 2017, there were just five positive tests for banned substances, but the cessation of longstanding ties with BHP Laboratories in Limerick last February, at a cost of around €500,000, has coincided with a spate of positive tests. Since then, the IHRB has been using the LGC lab in Newmarket, which is expected to have won the tender for the long-term contract – the number of samples tested in 2018 rose by three per cent to 4,232.

Egan, who indicated all seven cases involve new trainers and not repeat offenders, expressed his disappointment that the positives occurred after three seminars were held to inform trainers about how to avoid inadvertent breaches. 
  • "Seven positives occurred after the seminars took place, so clearly the advice we put out at the time wasn’t taken," he said. "The good news is we have had no positives so far in 2019."
By and large, the referrals committees accepted the raft of findings as innocuous in nature due to careless practices and Egan indicated that remains the case with the majority of outstanding breaches.  In announcing the figures, the IHRB's chief anti-doping officer Dr Lynn Hillyer said: “2018 saw a well-publicised development of the IHRB’s equine anti-doping programme.
  • "While the overall number of positive cases was an increase on previous years, on investigation of each case it was clear they largely arose from a lack of understanding of the risks around prohibited substances."

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