Written answers

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Horse Racing Industry

Photo of Michael LowryMichael Lowry (Tipperary North, Independent)
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75. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department is actively recruiting agricultural officers with a view to carrying out drug inspections within the horse racing sector, given the need to carry out such testing out of season to ensure that doping is not occurring during training; if he will address the issue of drug testing in the Irish race horse sector; and the action his Department is taking to address this issue. [15916/15]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The Racing Regulatory Body (The Turf Club and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee) is responsible for the integrity, including doping control and forensics, of racing in Ireland under legislation. Its integrity services are provided at licensed racecourses, point to point meetings and in out-of-competition situations. As part of its remit, the Racing Regulatory Body carries out a drug testing programme and authorised officers from my Department cooperate with the Racing Regulatory Body in these matters where appropriate. There are no plans to recruit agricultural officers specifically for the purpose of conducting out-of-training testing of race horses.

Funding for the Racing Regulatory Body is provided through the integrity services budget which it agrees annually with Horse Racing Ireland. I understand that increased funding of €7.35m has been provided by HRI to the Racing Regulatory Body in 2015 for integrity services. Within the above budget, a sum of €2.25m has been allocated for doping control which includes a provision for out of competition testing and for new investment in this area.

In 2014, 3,085 blood or urine samples taken from horses were tested, 2 of which proved to be positive for a prohibited substance. 84% of these samples were taken at the racecourse, 11% at point to points and 5% at trainers’ yards. The nature of drug testing in horseracing is changing globally with a greater move towards out of competition/in training testing.

In the past two years the Turf Club and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee tested over 430 horses in training.

Horse Racing Ireland has established a Drug Testing Task Force comprising representatives of the Racing Regulatory Body, owners, trainers, breeders, sales companies and stud book authorities to recommend future strategies for drug testing within the industry here. The work of the Task Force is ongoing and it is due to report by the middle of this year.

Separately, Horse Racing Ireland and the Racing Regulatory Body has commissioned a review of the laboratory facilities available to Irish racing by Dr Terence Wan, the head of the laboratory of the Hong Kong Jockey Club which is responsible for doping control in that jurisdiction, and I expect that this exercise will also contribute to ensuring that such controls are operated as effectively as possible into the future.

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