Thursday, 20 December 2018
Greyhound Racing Bill 2018: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage
Yes. I thank the Senators. I will speak on amendment No. 23, which is in the name of Senators Ó Domhnaill and Norris, regarding the stringent prohibition in line with best international practice. To insert the words being proposed instead of the words "residue limits" would be to remove Rásaíocht Con Éireann's powers to set limits for ordinary animal remedies. Second, class A drugs are a UK disqualification, not an Irish one. I would go as far as to say that the term "stringent prohibition, in line with best international practices" is a contradiction. Given the advances in technology, residue limits must be provided for. There are a number of reasons for doing so, including the necessary medication of greyhounds for welfare purposes and, as I stated on Committee Stage, for reasons of environmental contamination. Studies have shown that drugs are considered an environmental contaminant with residues being found on bank notes, for example. Greyhounds will require medication for welfare purposes but at levels lower than those affecting performance. The key test when a substance is found is whether it is appropriate, performance enhancing or what level it is present at. They are standard measures in sports where doping is a consideration.
Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 regarding a mandatory 120-day or four-month disqualification period following an adverse analytical finding is effectively a repeat of an earlier Committee Stage amendment through which Senator Ó Domhnaill sought an automatic disqualification for a period of four months for the use of a class A substance. As I stated on Committee Stage, the Bill already automatically disqualifies a dog from racing until it tests negative. It also allows the board to set down further periods based on the recommendations of the scientific advisory committee during which a greyhound may not race as it is deemed to still be affected by a residual performance effect following the negative test. This is a fair and balanced approach based on scientific advice. In addition, the Bill places strong emphasis on fair procedures with regard to the conduct of the investigation by the board into possible breaches of racing regulations and with regard to the conduct of hearings by the control committee into suspected breaches.
The purpose of the statutory independent sanctioning regime is to conduct hearings into alleged breaches of the racing code to make a decision on whether there has been a sanction breach and apply the appropriate administrative sanction. There can be an innocent explanation for the presence of prohibited and controlled substances in a greyhound, for example, due to the necessary medication of greyhounds for welfare purposes. The automatic disqualification of a greyhound for a fixed period assumes guilt. To act outside the statutory independent sanction regime of the independent control committee, the appeals committee and the District Court would be to dispense with due process and would be wholly inappropriate.
The Bill sets down the administrative sanctions that may be applied by the independent control committee and appeals committee. The control committee has the ability to impose a lifetime disqualification order on an individual greyhound or on all greyhounds kept, owned or managed by an individual. It could impose a lengthy exclusion order on an individual from being at a racetrack or public sale of greyhounds and could revoke or suspend a licence for breaches of the racing code, including doping. Additionally, a person may be required to pay a sum of €12,500 to the board. I believe this is a far greater deterrent than a minimum ban of three or four months.
Senator Ó Domhnaill, the other Senators and I are on the same page with regard to strong sanctions for breaches of the racing code, but I can only reiterate that the amendments being proposed to set down in primary legislation a mandatory disqualification period with no scientific basis would not reflect best practice, would dispense with due process and would not act as a sufficient deterrent.