yA few days before top officials from Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and the Irish Horse Racing Board (IHRB) will appear before the Irish Parliament’s Agriculture Committee to discuss ‘integrity and potential drug abuse’ in Irish racing, The Sunday Independent Add more fuel to the fire (£) this weekend with new claims to back coach Jim Bolger’s proposal last year العام Drugs are ‘problem number one’ for sport in Ireland.
One suggestion is that a famous British-based trainer did a hair test on six horses purchased from Ireland last year. According to the report, coach Bolger later told that the results indicated that three of the six had been administered steroids at some point, and also hinted at the presence of “potential currently unidentified keto stimulants,” which had not been seen in any previous analyzes of hair samples in the lab that The test is being done.
The paper also cited unsubstantiated claims from anonymous sources that doping and cobalt – the drug that was the center of the Australian doping scandal in 2015 – had been observed in at least two Irish stables, as well as that sources had informed the authorities – without any apparent effect.
The suggestion that executives may have been reporting drug use under “very difficult” or “very harmful” appears to be one that the COA will want to pursue in the first of a series of hearings Thursday.
So far, prominent figures, including Dennis Egan, who announced his early retirement last week as chief executive of IHRB, have maintained a firm belief that there is a “zero-tolerant approach to doping in Irish racing”. In response to the article, a spokesperson for the Institute for Human Rights and Human Rights said: “All information submitted to the Institute is evaluated and acted upon.” The IHRB also indicated in a recent statement – released after Bolger suggested there would be “Lance Armstrong” at Irish racing – that it would run 5,000 drug tests in 2021, including one on every winner, and that it has the ability to “reach any breed” authentic and sampled at any time in Ireland.
However, testing is only 50% of the battle, not least in regards to steroids because they clear a horse’s system within a few days but leave behind physical improvements that can last for several weeks or even longer.
Hair testing is one way to tackle this problem, and the latest IHR report on the doping testing programme, covering the first six months of the year, shows that 71 hair samples were taken on race days and another 350 from out-of-competition tests. They were all negative for steroids.
Ireland has about 9,000 horses in training, so only about 4% of those have been sampled, but nevertheless, if steroid use is close to the level of one of two suggested by the unnamed British trainer – and also assuming the tests are reliable – You expect at least 150 positives from 421 tests, possibly more.
But 100% negative results from more than 400 tests would be plausible if – as Bolger suggests – the vast majority of Irish coaches are playing by the rules but a handful of “Lance Armstrongs” tamper with the system, possibly also using designer drugs that don’t show up in the test.
For this reason, the second primary weapon in the fight against doping will always be an intelligence-led investigation, and this is where the Sunday Independent’s latest allegations can be particularly devastating.
Specific allegations of corruption – such as those that newspaper sources claim to have sent to regulators – must be treated with the utmost seriousness and investigated accordingly. If it appears at Thursday’s hearing that the regulator has, for whatever reason, failed to treat information from the potential whistleblower as it should, its credibility will be shot.