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Thomas Dowling (Trainer) Prohibited Substance Referral – Down Royal 22th July 2022

The Referrals Committee, Mr. Peter Allen (in the chair), Mr. Anthony Byrne, and Mr. Finbar Cahill convened in the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on Wednesday, 9th September 2022 to consider whether or not Mr. Thomas Dowling (Trainer) was in breach of any rules of racing as a result of a report received from LGC Laboratories, Newmarket, England.


The report received on 3rd August 2022 stated the blood sample taken from Starlight Rose following her win in the Owners Information Evening Handicap, was confirmed by LGC Laboratories to contain omeprazole. Under Rule 20(v) and Regulation R14 of the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules omeprazole is a prohibited substance on a raceday.


The option of ‘B’ sample analysis was requested by Mr. Dowling, which was reported positive for omeprazole by LCH, France on 30th August 2022.


Evidence was heard from Mr. Dowling, and Dr. Lynn Hillyer, Head of Anti-Doping and Chief Veterinary Officer.


In her evidence, Dr. Hillyer outlined the basis of and reasons for the regulatory control of omeprazole and details of the investigation carried out by the IHRB into the adverse finding. Dr. Hillyer explained omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor commonly used in the treatment and prophylaxis of gastric ulceration, usually as an oral medication. Dr. Hillyer said there are several products containing omeprazole licensed for use in the horse in Ireland. Omeprazole is a prohibited substance on race day under Rule 20(v)/Regulation 14 of the Rules of Racing and INHS Rules because it has an effect on a body system. It is controlled via an International Screening Limit (ISL) in both urine and plasma, linked with a Detection Time in order that only samples containing clinically significant concentrations of the medication (above that ISL) are returned as adverse findings.


Dr. Hillyer confirmed that the adverse analytical finding in the sample taken from Starlight Rose was confirmed by LGC, Newmarket on 10th August, when the concentration of omeprazole was estimated at around four times the ISL.


Dr. Hillyer explained that an unannounced stable inspection/out of competition test was carried out by IHRB Authorised Officers on 6th August 2022 at Mr Dowling’s licensed premises.  Eight horses were sampled including Starlight Rose – these samples were all subsequently reported negative by LGC.  The Medicines Register contained a single entry for Starlight Rose, (11.7.22), one syringe Gastrogard for three days, with a five-day Withdrawal Time recorded as being advised. A Prescription dated (13.7.22) for Gastrogard for Starlight Rose was provided, detailing the dispensing of five tubes of Gastrogard to be used ‘one tube orally once a day for five days.’


Despite the recording of the last dose as 13th July (according to the Medicines Register) or 17th July (according to the prescription), from the fact that omeprazole was reported in the Sample taken on 22nd July at around four times the ISL, based on the scientific data on which the Detection Time of 48 hours was based, it appeared Starlight Rose was exposed to omeprazole closer to the raceday than either the 13th or 17th July.


Dr. Hillyer concluded by noting that in this instance, in the view of the IHRB, there was an inadequate withdrawal period– with the explanation for this not being clear – resulting in the adverse analytical finding. Furthermore, Mr. Dowling’s Medicines Register entry was not consistent with the prescription provided for the treatment of the filly.


In his evidence, Mr. Dowling stated that he contacted the Troytown Veterinary Practice on the 11th July to get a prescription of Gastrogard for Starlight Rose. Troytown informed Mr. Dowling that they would be unable to provide him with the prescription until the 13th July. Mr. Dowling explained to the panel that he had three syringes of Gastrogard in his medicine cabinet that had not been used when prescribed for a different horse, so he administered the Gastrogard on the 11th and 12th July himself until he was able to get the prescription and Gastrogard from Troytown. Mr. Dowling stated that he couldn’t explain the adverse analytical finding because the horse was not administered Gastrogard between 72 hours and 24 hours before the race. Mr Dowling said the only way he could think of that cross contamination could occur is that Starlight Rose was wearing a tongue strap every morning while exercising and possibly this could have been a potential cause of the adverse finding. 


Having considered the evidence, Chairman of the Referrals Committee, Mr. Allen, read out the following decision on behalf of the committee.


“In relation to the facts of this case which is presented before us, we are very conscious of the fact that the science does speak and speaks very loudly in this case. It does indicate to us that at the time Starlight Rose was running, it did have a quantity of a substance which was above the exceeded the permitted limit and we do accept the scientific findings put before us. No explanation has been furnished to us as to how that substance could be in Starlight Rose’s system other than being administered within 48-72 hour period before the race. Therefore, we are of the opinion, that although Mr. Dowling has explained he is unaware of how this is the case, as the trainer responsible for all things to do with the horse we do find Mr. Dowling in breach of Rule 96(a). In relation to Rule 148(iii)(b), we do find Mr. Dowling in breach of that rule for failing to keep the Medicines Register up to date. We fine Mr. Dowling €2,500 in relation to Rule 96(a) and Starlight Rose must be disqualified from the race in question, the places be amended accordingly and the stake is forfeited. We also fine Mr. Dowling €250 in relation to Rule 148(iii)(b). .”



The Amended result of the Owners Information Evening Handicap now reads:


First:      Regally Blonde (GB)

Second: Lemon Ice

Third:    Steps In The Sand

Fourth:  Flash Of Dawn

Fifth:     Eagles Perch


The case was presented by Mr. Michael Daly, IHRB Regulatory Legal Advisor.

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