IHRB chief executive Denis Egan announces early retirement
Denis Egan has insisted his decision to vacate his position as chief executive of the Irish Horse Racing Regulatory Board (IHRB) when the regulator is in the midst of a high-profile saga involving serious doping allegations has nothing to do with the ongoing controversy.
Egan, 60, who has spent 26 years working for the sport's governing body in Ireland, almost 20 of which have been in his role as the chief executive, has denied coming under pressure from the IHRB board or anyone else in the industry.
His decision to leave his role at the end of September, which he says is due solely to an early retirement scheme, comes at a time when the regulator has found itself dealing with one controversy after another, the latest of which has been Jim Bolger's incendiary suggestion that illegal drug use is the number one problem in Irish racing and that there will be a Lance Armstrong moment for the sport.
Egan told the Racing Post: “The decision I have taken was in line with the conditions of an early retirement scheme and has been something I gave deep thought to. At this point in time, after 26 years with the Turf Club and IHRB, I now feel I am at the stage where I would like to pursue other avenues.”
He added: “The timing of this announcement is related to the early retirement scheme and is being made well in advance to provide an opportunity to put in place a recruitment process so that a new CEO can be ready to take over the reins when practicable.”
Bolger and Egan, along with representatives of the IHRB, Horse Racing Ireland, the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association and the Department of Agriculture have been invited to appear before the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee to discuss the allegations of drug cheats in Irish racing.
Bolger has this week informed the committee he will not be in a position to attend following legal advice, but Egan will take up the invitation.
During the case surrounding the doping of Viking Hoard, who was laid for significant money on the exchanges after being sedated before running at Tramore in 2018, it was never established who administered the substance, and it emerged the IHRB had failed to invest in CCTV at racecourses despite provision being made for it in its 2018 budget.
Shortcomings in the regulator's anti-doping regime, and a perceived lack of transparency and accountability, have dogged the ruling body for years, while there has also been a number of operational failings in relation to starting procedures and the accuracy of race distances.
Egan joined the Turf Club in 1995 as a financial controller before taking over as chief executive in 2001.
When that organisation became the IHRB in 2018, he was responsible for overseeing that transition as CEO of the new body. He represents Irish racing as a member of the executive council of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, is a member of the International Harmonisation of Raceday Rules Committee and the European Horserace Scientific Liaison Committee. He is also currently chairman of the European Racing Medical Officers Group and the International Conference for the Health Safety and Welfare of Jockeys.
"Irish racing has an enviable reputation worldwide, both for its fairness and integrity, and has enjoyed huge success at home and around the world," he said on Thursday.
"I am proud that the Turf Club, and more recently the IHRB, has had a significant role to play in this regard. I believe we now have a strong platform in place to build and grow for the future and I believe the time is right to hand over to a successor to take the organisation to the next level."
He added: "I would like to thank the members of the Turf Club and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee, and particularly the staff of the IHRB, for their professionalism and indeed their support down through the years."
Outgoing Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh has said Egan cared greatly about the participants in Irish racing while paying tribute to the IHRB boss.
“Denis always worked very hard on behalf of Irish racing and cared greatly about the participants in the sport," Kavanagh said. "His work in the medical and safety area is respected internationally and he deserves great credit for many improvements to this aspect of Irish racing in particular. I wish himself and Geraldine [wife] all the best for a long and happy retirement.”
Andrew Coonan, secretary to the Irish Jockeys Association, added: "I sat across the table from Denis Egan on behalf of the jockeys for many battles and, no matter what the outcome, he was always unfailingly courteous and a pleasure to deal with. There are probably not many aware of his kindness and generosity, which I often called on with regard to fallen jockeys or those who had come upon hard times."
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