By Brian O’Connor

Horse Racing Ireland and the Turf Club have established what they describe as a “taskforce” to ensure that drug testing within the racing and breeding industries will operate to the highest international standards.

Tension between both organisations appeared to have deepened earlier this week in an unprecedented Turf Club request for independent arbitration over proposed funding for improvements to the laboratory which performs drug testing in Ireland.

However a united front has been presented in a statement outlining how the HRI board “stressed that absolute priority” will be given to tackling the drugs issue and that any necessary measures will be taken to maintain Ireland’s worldwide reputation in the bloodstock industry.

Industry taskforce

Part of that commitment involves the immediate setting up on an industry taskforce which will include representatives from the Turf Club, the racehorse owners association, the breeders association, the trainers association and sales companies.

The statement was co-signed by HRI’s chairman Joe Keeling and the Turf Club’s senior steward, Neville O’Byrne.

HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh anticipated the new taskforce will issue a report outlining measures and recommendations in how to tackle the doping issue which has plagued racing in 2014.

Kavanagh said: “We will be asking the relevant bodies to propose appropriate people. This is a complex area and ideally we will be looking at people with qualifications in the appropriate areas. But it will be open to the organisations themselves to nominate who they want.”

Key player

On the significance of a joint HRI-Turf Club statement, Kavanagh said: “That is the purpose of the HRI board which comprises of representatives from the industry. The Turf Club is a key player given its regulatory function. At Thursday’s board meeting there was a re-emphasis of the joint position in terms of how illegal performance enhancing drugs have no place in the racing and breeding industries . . .”

A Turf Club spokesman has confirmed the possibility of arbitration over funding for the BHP laboratory in Limerick still exists but added the regulatory body hopes agreement can still be reached with HRI which is in charge of financial allocations within racing.

The HRI board also noted how the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities is developing new protocols for drug testing and laboratory certification worldwide and Kavanagh stressed it is not just in Ireland that problems with banned medicines, exist. A review of Irish drug testing systems is being carried out by Dr Terence Wan of the Hong Kong Jockey Club which is due to be completed by the end of March.