by Adam Dworak

Strengthening Equine Integrity: Ireland and Britain Unite in Anti-Doping Efforts

In a landmark move for the horseracing industry, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) have jointly announced the launch of an innovative equine anti-doping and medication control initiative.

This collaboration underscores a shared commitment to the principles of fair play and the welfare of participants, setting a new standard in the regulation of medicine use and the enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy towards doping in the sport.

Out of Competition Testing: A Cornerstone of Fair Play

Out of Competition Testing (OOCT) is recognized as a pivotal element of any modern and effective anti-doping strategy. Both Ireland and Britain have significantly increased their OOCT activities in recent years, extending their reach to thoroughbreds at every stage of their careers. This proactive approach not only enhances the integrity of the sport but also safeguards the wellbeing of its equine athletes.

A United Front in Equine Welfare and Integrity

The recent formalization of joint OOCT operations between the IHRB and BHA marks a significant milestone in their collaborative efforts. The initial phase of this partnership has already seen substantial activity, with nearly 250 samples collected from over 120 horses slated to participate in the upcoming Cheltenham Festival. These operations, carried out across 14 training premises in Ireland, featured a combined team of senior officials from both regulatory bodies, illustrating the depth of their cooperation.

Under this new framework, joint operations conducted in Ireland will adhere to the IHRB’s standard operating procedures, with all samples treated as IHRB samples. Conversely, when IHRB Veterinary Officers operate in Britain, they will follow BHA protocols and jurisdiction. This arrangement ensures a seamless and transparent process, with any adverse findings shared between the two bodies. All samples are to be tested by the LGC Laboratory, a globally recognized reference laboratory, ensuring the highest standards of testing and integrity.

Leadership Perspectives on the Collaboration

Dr. Lynn Hillyer, Chief Veterinary Officer for the IHRB, highlighted the strategic alignment of this initiative with the broader goals of international collaboration and adherence to best practices. “The IHRB Strategy 2024-2027 commits us to close engagement with international horseracing bodies and benchmarking ourselves against best international practice. This new venture shows stakeholders and the racing public that we collaborate as professionals across both sides of the Irish Sea, sharing best practice and resources and demonstrating equally stringent regulatory processes and standards to the extent that our anti-doping and medication control programmes are interoperable.

“We are delighted to be collaborating with our BHA colleagues in this way and see it as a positive step forward that reinforces the point that there is no room for anything other than the highest standards of integrity and welfare in either jurisdiction.”

Echoing this sentiment, James Given, Director of Equine Regulation, Safety, and Welfare at the BHA, emphasized the benefits of this partnership in enhancing the scrutiny of horses competing across jurisdictions. “The BHA welcomes the collaboration with the IHRB to demonstrate to stakeholders and the public that horses running from either side of the Irish sea in each other’s races do so under the same level of scrutiny.

“Not only will our Medication Control and Anti-Doping (MCAD) team have access to more information about visiting horses, but there will be opportunities for our wider team to share ideas and best practice in other areas of our work.

“Like the IHRB, this is aligned with our aims around international collaboration, the response to racecourse accidents and the overall improvement of equine safety and welfare.”

Our Comment on the Initiative

This collaborative initiative between the IHRB and BHA is a commendable step forward in the ongoing effort to uphold the highest standards of integrity and welfare in horseracing. By pooling resources and expertise, these organizations are setting a new benchmark for international cooperation in the sport. The transparent and rigorous approach adopted by both bodies serves as a model for other jurisdictions and underscores the paramount importance of equine welfare and fair competition in the racing industry. As this partnership evolves, it is expected to significantly contribute to the global reputation and trust in the integrity of horseracing.

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