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Ger Lyons backs Bolger over anti-doping comments and calls for action

Jim Bolger: believes doping has been a problem in Irish racing for 20 years
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Leading trainer Ger Lyons says he has not witnessed illegal drug use but backed Jim Bolger after the legendary handler claimed "there will be a Lance Armstrong in Irish racing" – a suggestion that has prompted the IHRB to defend its anti-doping approach.

Bolger, who described the use of performance enhancing substances as the number one issue in Irish racing last October, suggested that doping has been a problem for 20 years in Ireland, revealing he knows who the drug cheats are in an interview in the Sunday Independent.

When reporter Paul Kimmage put it to him that he was "seeing a lot of parallels with pro cycling", Bolger replied: "Well, there will be a Lance Armstrong in Irish racing."

In response to those comments, the IHRB issued a statement on Monday night in which chief executive Denis Egan highlighted significant increases in testing in recent years, emphasising: "There is no room for complacency when it comes to equine anti-doping."

Speaking on Newstalk radio's Off The Ball programme, Lyons questioned the regulator's actions in response to Bolger's concerns.

Ger Lyons: "If somebody of Jim's stature comes out with something, he has to be listened to by the authorities"

He said: "I am in the Jim Bolger camp and I back him 100 per cent. I don't agree with everything he does and when I don't agree, I tell him. But if somebody of Jim's stature comes out with something, he has to be listened to by the authorities. It's up to them to prove him right or wrong, but act on it. Don't leave it hanging in the air for people to cast aspersions.

"In every walk of life, there are going to be bad people looking for an edge. I'm sure there is in our sport. Have I witnessed it? No I haven't. I'm of the belief that our authorities have a job to do and I hope that they are doing the job.

"Jim brought this up last October and my take is, what have the authorities done since? Have they just hoped that it would go away? If they have, shame on them. In summary, it's down to the police. Our police need to be doing their job and if they're not, we need to get new police."

IHRB chief veterinary officer and head of anti-doping Dr Lynn Hillyer told the Nick Luck Daily Podcast that she believes with "absolute confidence" that Irish-trained horses running at Royal Ascot this week will be doing so entirely cleanly.

"We have access to horses in a way that no other regulatory authority does through our well-publicised authorised officer status," she said.

"That means we can extend our activity from our licensed yards, in terms of following horses that may not be there or that we thought might be there, to then inspect and test on unlicensed yards such as pinhookers, breeders, consignors, pre-sale and pre-training.

Lynn Hillyer: ""We have access to horses in a way that no other regulatory authority does"

"That is unparalleled in terms of how we can both find and test these horses and I think that's testament to how serious we are about it."

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said it was vital for testing to be constantly increasing and urged those who are concerned about possible cheats to contact the IHRB.

"Ireland is a global leader in racing and breeding," he said, "and that position brings with it a responsibility to always be vigilant when it comes to anti-doping. Horse Racing Ireland considers it crucial that continuous investment is made in ensuring that testing is constantly increasing in both numbers and agility, utilising the most modern techniques, and is of an internationally accredited standard." 

He added: "HRI has consistently increased its investment in anti-doping through the IHRB in recent years, and that will continue to be the case. This is not a closed industry so I would encourage anybody who believes that there are people operating outside of the rules, to contact the IHRB and make their concerns known." 

The statement issued by the IHRB read: "The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board reaffirms to all stakeholders, the racing public, the wider thoroughbred industry and the general public that we are committed to the highest standards of integrity within Irish racing.

""Following comments made recently, the IHRB can once again stress there is a zero-tolerance approach to doping in Irish racing"

"Following comments made recently, the IHRB can once again stress there is a zero-tolerance approach to doping in Irish racing and we operate to the highest level using LGC Laboratories in Newmarket, who are one of five International Federation of Horseracing Authorities certified laboratories in the world, and the same laboratory used by the British Horseracing Authority.

"The IHRB will continue our extensive testing programme with 5,000 samples in 2021, once again including every race winner, additional raceday samples, out of competition samples and now also at unlicensed premises following on from the receipt of authorised officer status for 12 employees of the IHRB last month which allows us to access and sample any thoroughbred at any time in Ireland.

"Each and every one of the samples taken are sent to LGC for analysis and any sample that returns an adverse analytical
finding is acted upon, and details published, following our disciplinary process. LGC have been world leaders in anabolic steroid detection for over 60 years and most recently have led detection of these drugs in hair.

"In the region of 25 per cent of samples will be out of competition tests, including tests from unlicensed premises. Since receiving warrant cards from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine at the end of May, IHRB authorised officers have sampled at studs, consignors, pre-training yards in addition to licensed trainers."

IHRB chief executive Denis Egan added: "The IHRB have shown that by significant increases in testing over the last number of years, and through collaboration with LGC [Laboratories] we have been able to take advantage of the science available.

"Our focus is on risk based and intelligence led strategy which directs us to get the right sample from the right horse at the right time. The appointment of IHRB officials as authorised officers further strengthens that."


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In every walk of life, there are going to be bad people looking for an edge. I'm sure there is in our sport. Have I witnessed it? No I haven't

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