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Alan Ahern (Handler) Prohibited Substance Appeal

The Appeals Body, Ms. Susan Ahern (Chairperson), Mr. John McGuire and Mr. John Murphy convened in the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on Monday 20th November 2023 to consider the appeal of Alan Ahern (Handler) against the decision of the Referrals Committee on Tuesday 3rd October 2023.

At the Appeal Hearing, evidence was heard from Mr. Ahern, Professor Deirdre Campion, UCD Veterinary Biosciences and Veterinary Pharmacology and Dr. Lynn Hillyer, IHRB Chief Veterinary Officer and Head of Equine-Anti Doping.

The grounds of appeal lodged by Mr. Ahern were against the severity of the suspension imposed on Flemensface and the decision of the Referrals Committee to disqualify Flemensface from first place in the Pegus Horse Feed P-To-P Flat Race at Cork on 10th March 2023.

In his evidence, Mr. Ahern explained that while preparing to run Flemensface in a Point to Point he had received feedback from his work rider that the horse felt “a bit gassy”. In light of this feedback, Mr. Ahern stated that he administered 60ml of what he understood to be glycerine to Flemensface but he now accepts the substance to have been Ventipulmin. Mr. Ahern admitted that he had declined the option of a ‘B’ sample analysis and acknowledged that a letter sent to him by the IHRB confirmed the adverse analytical finding and the letter advised him that he should advise any potential purchaser of the horse of the ongoing proceedings, but he had overlooked the significance of this correspondence. Mr. Ahern said that he felt once the horse had won at Cork and not returned an adverse analytical finding that the matter was closed.

In her evidence, Professor Campion said that, in her opinion, the substance administered on 7th March 2023 would have had no effect on the performance of Flemensface during his race on 10th April 2023. She also stated that Ventipulmin and glycerine look very familiar and she could understand how someone could mix them up as they both look like a clear syrup.

In her evidence, Dr. Hillyer explained that the administration of clenbuterol without any veterinary supervision had led to this adverse analytical finding. Dr. Hillyer outlined the seriousness of the substance and added that this isn’t any normal medicine. Dr. Hillyer confirmed that clenbuterol is a prohibited at all times substance when administered without veterinary supervision.

Having considered the evidence, Susan Ahern, chairperson, read out the following decision on behalf of the Appeals Body:

“The Committee considered all the submissions, witness evidence and supplemental expert evidence submitted in support of the appeal which was limited to an appeal of certain sanctions imposed by the Referrals Committee namely:

  • the disqualification from 1st place at Cork Racecourse on the 10th April 2023; and
  • The imposition of a 14 month suspension, preventing the horse from running again until 10 June 2024.

The Referrals Committee found that the breach of Rule 96(c) for clenbuterol, a substance prohibited at all times under Regulation 14 Rule 1.2(c) of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Regulations for Point to Point Steeplechases 2022/2023 was upheld. That finding was not challenged in the Appeal. However, additional evidence from the Appellant and in particular that of Professor Campion was introduced as mitigation in the context of the reduction or elimination of the sanctions imposed. The Appeal Body was not convinced in the factual circumstance of this case of the possibility of Ventipulmin®, a product containing clenbuterol, being mistaken for a glycerine product.

Having considered the scope of the sanction imposed by the Referral Committee the Appeal Body determined that the imposition of a 14-month suspension preventing the horse Flemensface from running until 10 June 2024 was appropriate.

The Committee considered the following facts as pertinent to its determination in relation to its consideration of the results at Cork racecourse on 10th April 2023:

  • The AAF for clenbuterol arose from Sample collected on 12th March 2023
  • The screening findings were provided to the IHRB on the 22nd March 2023
  • Full sample laboratory results were provided to the IHRB on 29th March 2023
  • In the meantime, an investigation had commenced in accordance with the practice of the IHRB, which included a site visit to the Appellant’s yard on 23rd March 2023.
  • Evidence obtained from that site visit included an oral veterinary medicinal product ‘Ventipulmin Syrup®, 355ml’ which contains clenbuterol hydrochloride.
  • Subsequent testing analysis (hair and blood) from Flemensface taken during the site visit on 23rd March 2023, elicited negative results
  • The evidence from Dr. Hillyer at the hearing that notwithstanding the negative test on 10th April 2023 following the Cork race, that the benefits of the earlier administration of Clenbuterol to Flemensface would have had residual performance effect.

The Committee considered that the serious nature of the Prohibited Substance, the fact that a source of clenbuterol was found at the Appellant’s yard during the IHRB inspection, and the evidence of the ongoing benefits of even a single administration of Clenbuterol to a horse in performance terms where they race almost a month subsequent to the initial administration, warranted the IHRB exercising its powers under Rule 21 to “refuse to allow the Horse to run if duly entered in any race until the decision of the Referrals Committee”, which it had not done.

As a consequence, the Appeal Body determined that in the specific facts and circumstances of this particular case, it would not impose the disqualification and that the result of 1st place at Cork Racecourse on 10 April 2023 would stand.”

Amended Result


Cork 10th April 2023

Pegus Horse Feed P-To-P Flat Race

First:                 Flemensface

Second:            Asian Master

Third:               What’s Up Darling

Fourth:             Evesham Road

Fifth:                Marv Michael

Sixth:                Blue In The West


The case was presented by Mr. Eugene Gleeson, S.C., instructed by Mr. Kevin Power of Maurice Power Solicitors, Kilmallock, County Limerick on behalf of Mr. Ahern. The IHRB was represented by Ms Bébhinn Murphy, B.L., instructed by Ms. Clíodhna Guy, IHRB Head of Licensing, Legal and Compliance.

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