By: Brian O’Connor

A spike in the number of positive drug tests this year has prompted racing’s regulatory body to organise seminars to try and educate trainers, vets and stable staff on the dangers of using prohibited substances.

Three seminars headed by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s chief veterinary officer, and head of anti-doping, Lynn Hillyer, will be held over the next 33 days in different parts of the country.

However the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has stressed it doesn’t believe the increase in positive results in 2018 means there is evidence of doping. Instead it believes the increase is due to unintentional bad practice.

“We’re not concerned about any doping being involved. We can say that categorically. It’s just bad practice,” the IHRB’s chief executive Denis Egan said on Friday.

Seven positive tests have been returned in Ireland already this year compared to six for the whole of 2017. More cases, believed to be over seven, are currently pending.

However the IHRB says the positive tests have been for painkillers, anti-inflammatory products and supplements rather than anything more serious such as anabolic steroids.

“In cases we’ve dealt with, and in most cases coming up, it’s just bad use of medicines. It’s not intentional. I just think it’s bad practice.

“If there was a problem with Irish racing, Irish horses are being tested internationally the whole time and there are no difficulties with a raft of positives coming back. In fact there’s very few, if any.

“We don’t know why there’s an increase in the number of positives which is why we’re setting up the seminars to educate the trainers,” Egan added.

The first of the three seminars will be held in Gormanstown, Co. Meath after Laytown races this Thursday. The second will take place at IHRB headquarters on September 26th. The final one will take place in Horse & Jockey in Co Tipperary on October 3th.

Broad church

Lynn Hillyer said the message has got to be got across to everyone in racing about how positive tests for prohibited substances can be prevented.

“There is increased attention on anti-doping at the moment. That is fair to say,” she said. Hillyer added of the spike in positive tests: “There’s a range in types of drugs, a range in the types of horses and a range of trainers. So it is a broad church.”

A procurement process is ongoing to appoint new testing services for Irish racing after the IHRB’s 22 year link to the Limerick based BHP Laboratories wound up earlier this year.

A mediation process concluded in February with a settlement to BHP, reportedly of around €500,000. Since then samples have been tested in Newmarket in England with B-samples sent to another laboratory in France.

Hillyer said she wants the procurement process to be completed as soon as possible and it is understood it should be finished by the end of the year. An evaluation committee is examining tender offers from laboratories from around Europe.

A Newmarket lab has been appointed as an interim service provider since February and Denis Egan said: “We have no concerns about the standard to which samples are being tested.”