BHA forced to look at its rules yet again after defeat in Faugheen case
The BHA said on Thursday it would consider making changes to the rules of racing following the judgement in last month's Tim Brennan case that exposed a loophole in the existing rulebook.
Brennan was accused of passing inside information about the wellbeing of Faugheen to his brother, Michael Brennan, but was exonerated both on grounds of the charges not being proven and because the independent disciplinary panel agreed with defence counsel that Brennan was not subject to the rules under which he was charged.
In the full written reasons released on Thursday, the panel noted the phrasing of rule (A)2, which spells out those who are bound by the rules, refers to those who "manage" a horse. The BHA argued that included self-employed vets, but the panel ruled against the regulator.
The panel's ruling could have far-reaching implications, since it would also suggest other self-employed professionals, such as farriers, physiotherapists and so forth, are not subject to the rules.
The panel stressed its ruling pertained only to Irish self-employed vets, since that was the case argued before it, but it is virtually inevitable that any cases brought against any self-employed professionals would now be contested on identical grounds.
To close this loophole, the panel suggested the BHA should, if it so desired, introduce an amendment to the relevant rule to "include self-employed vets, farriers or equine physiotherapists and suchlike".
Responding to the ruling, Brant Dunshea, BHA chief regulatory officer, said: “We note the panel’s view that an improvement to the wording of the rules might be required to ensure all of the appropriate people are bound by the rules of racing. We will now consider their findings on this matter before determining how to proceed.”
This is the latest setback to the BHA's interpretation of the rules of racing following cases that challenged the regulator's long-standing position on positive dope tests.
The BHA has held that under the principle of strict liability trainers, as the responsible person for their horses, are liable to be punished for any positive tests regardless of proven intent or involvement.
The regulator argued that only by establishing the probable source of the positive test – for example, via contamination or a third party – could trainers avoid culpability.
However, in two cases last year this position was challenged by defence lawyers, leading to the panel determining that, while trainers are responsible for positive tests under the current rules, the absence of fault was significant mitigation when determining punishment regardless of whether the likely source of the positive test was established.
In the most high-profile case, trainer Hughie Morrison was found guilty of breaching the rules after one of his horses tested positive for an anabolic steroid, but was fined only a nominal sum of £1,000 when he could have faced a ban of between one and ten years under strict interpretation of the rules.
Former chief regulatory officer Jamie Stier said last year the BHA would seek to amend the rules to clarify its intended interpretation of strict liability.
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