Game changer: Irish authorities unable to release details about injured jockeys
The impact of the recently implemented EU data regulations has been described as "a real game changer" by the authorities in Ireland after it emerged that Irish racing's regulatory body can no longer provide the public with information on a jockey's injuries without the rider's consent.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) has traditionally been the conduit through which racing fans and the media are informed of the nature of a jockey's injury.
However, IHRB chief executive Denis Egan has revealed that activation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on May 25 means the regulator can no longer give updates on a rider's condition in the public domain without the individual's written consent.
Egan said: "We're no longer going to be able to release such information, unless we happen to get authorisation of some sort."
IHRB chief medical officer Dr Adrian McGoldrick, a trusted liaison for jockeys, is usually the media's point of contact, but the stricter data protection landscape now prevents him from disclosing the extent of jockeys' injuries.
"The problem is that it involves personal information which we're releasing about somebody without their consent,” Egan explained.
"I don't know if there'll be any scope to get around this issue but on the face of it there doesn't appear to be any straightforward way of doing so."
Initially, it had been hoped the Irish Jockeys Association could get riders to sign in advance the required consent to maintain the practice that existed until May 25, although no such waiver is possible, according to the association's secretary Andrew Coonan.
"I spoke to Adrian [McGoldrick] and it seems to be a case-by-case basis with individual jockeys and regarding the nature of the injury or illness," said Coonan. "This is almost a patient confidentiality issue rather than anything to do with GDPR."
He continued: "On each occasion somebody has an injury they will have to give consent. A rider can't give an overall consent to Adrian to release information to the public."
Egan added: "The issue is that if I'm a rider and break my leg, it's not a major problem for the public to hear that information.
"However, if I get a fall with the potential for extremely serious damage, I obviously might not want that information released. The problem is that it would potentially come down to a doctor to make that judgement."
The British view
The new legislation should not impact upon the way news of injuries is handled in Britain.
Robin Mounsey, head of media for the BHA, said: "In Britain these incidents, from a communications point of view, are 'owned' by the racecourses.
"When a rider is injured they will be immediately attempting to contact next of kin and inform them of the issue, and they won't offer any detailed information about their condition until all consents have been achieved.
"At that stage it's up to the racecourse or the jockey/next of kin as to what, if any, information is disseminated, but generally for serious cases the Injured Jockeys Fund will take ownership of the situation – if given permission – and act as a conduit for information, issuing statements, etc."
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