THE Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board says it plans to implement a number of recommendations made this week by the cross-party Oireachtas Agriculture Committee.

On Tuesday the Committee published a 34-page report following its summer series of meetings with leading industry stakeholders. These meetings were prompted by comments made by Jim Bolger, which suggested that Irish racing had a major drugs problem.

While the Committee found no evidence to suggest that Irish racing’s anti-doping programme was below international standards, they did make a number of recommendations aimed at improving the “transparency” and accountability of the IHRB.

The main points were:

  • A recommendation that the IHRB board composition be reviewed and the lack of independent members and the lack of gender balance be examined.
  • It should be considered if legislation should be altered to reclassify the IHRB as a semi state body.
  • An independent review of the horse racing industry by an outside body is needed to ensure Ireland’s procedures match international best practices. This should include a full audit of tests previously carried out.
  • At race meetings, all favourites and those finishing in the top five of any race must be mandatorily tested after the race by taking hair samples
  • Speaking at the launch of the report on Tuesday, Jackie Cahill, chairman of the Oireachtas Committee, said: “We’re happy that the testing standards in Irish racing are of the highest possible international standards.

    “The IHRB, there’s no question that they’re doing the testing to the highest possible standards. But to meet the modern criteria that’s there, I think greater transparency was needed. That’s where a lot of our recommendations are coming from.”

    Cahill said that the aim of the recommendations was to ensure everyone is fully convinced that there can be no wrongdoing involved in horse racing in Ireland

    He added: “I think this recommendation would be a comprehensive testing post-race, will give the public 100% confidence that the highest standards are being employed and that there is a very comprehensive testing regime in place.”

    Responding to the report, an IHRB spokesman told The Irish Field: “We will carry out a detailed review of all the recommendations made in the report, some of which do have significant operational and budgetary factors which need to be considered but we are committed to holding Irish racing to the highest standard.”

    In respect of the recommendations of an independent audit of the testing system and the call for independent board members and gender balance to be examined, the IHRB spokesperson added: “I can confirm that we began engaging last month with Dr Craig Suann in respect of an audit into Equine Anti-Doping and also at last month’s board meeting it was agreed to amend the constitution to allow for independent board members.

    “The IHRB is an equal opportunity organisation and are proud of the fact that Meta Osborne was the first female in the world to hold such a position as Senior Steward and Caroline Corballis also recently served on the board of the IHRB.

    “Senior Medical Officer, Dr Jennifer Pugh, Chief Veterinary Officer & Head of Equine Anti-Doping, Dr. Lynn Hillyer and Interim CEO and Head of Licensing, Legal and Compliance, Cliodhna Guy are further testament to a strong representation at senior level within the IHRB.”