BHA commissions full review of anti-doping rules following high-profile cases
The BHA has announced a full review of the sport's anti-doping rules following two recent high-profile cases that have blown a hole in the strict liability rule concerning trainers and owners.
In a statement released by the BHA on Wednesday, it was revealed on Monday the board had approved the decision to conduct a full review, which will include consultation with the National Trainers Federation, long-time critics of the strict liability rule, and the Racehorse Owners Association, among other bodies.
The current rules, which have been brought into sharper focus since independent disciplinary panels were introduced last year, state that a trainer (or owner, should they have the horse in their care) is wholly responsible for what substances are administered, as would be the case with an individual athlete in other sports.
However, this clearly is not so easy to apply as in other sports involving human competitors. That much became apparent in the cases against trainers Philip Hobbs and Hughie Morrison in 2017.
Hobbs escaped any sanction from the disciplinary panel following Keep Moving's positive test for the antihistamine cetirizine in January, a decision the BHA contested only for the appeal board to uphold the original decision in November.
The following month, Morrison escaped a lengthy ban after his filly Our Little Sister had tested positive for an anabolic steroid, also in January. By proving that neither he nor his staff had administered the substance, Morrison was deemed to have in effect proved his innocence, a decision that runs contrary to strict liability.
As the BHA's statement went on to admit: "This has called into question some of the assumptions that have been made across the sport about the obligations on those responsible for the welfare of horses and the penalties for breaking the anti-doping rules.
"As a result, the BHA has decided a review is necessary to achieve clarity for all participants, while maintaining the commitment to fairness and providing appropriate deterrent to wrongdoing."
BHA chief executive Nick Rust said: "Leading trainers and the NTF have frequently repeated their support for zero-tolerance of prohibited at all times substances. The BHA agrees that this is the right approach to adopt if racing is to maintain credibility with the betting and viewing public and ensure a level playing field for participants.
"We need to ensure that our rules are clear about what zero-tolerance means for the obligations on those responsible for horses and the penalties when the rules are broken.
"We want our rules to be fair to all concerned, from trainers who have done nothing wrong through to the punters who need to have confidence that racing is clean.
"We need to make sure that there is an appropriate deterrent for those who might consider cheating, so that we can protect the interests of their fellow participants – trainers, owners and riders – and the betting public.
"We welcome the contribution to the sport from our independent panels and the impartial scrutiny they have brought to the sport's rules and disciplinary processes. We believe the panel's decisions will help racing clarify and improve our anti-doping rules.
"It is important for our participants and for our investigative and disciplinary processes that there should be clarity to these rules and consistency to the penalties applied."
The review will commence shortly and is expected to be completed in 2018. Any changes to the rules the review might recommend would then need to be approved by the BHA board.
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