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W.P. Mullins (Trainer), Prohibited Substance Referral – Punchestown, 25th April, 2018  


The Referrals Committee, Mr. Justice Raymond Groarke (in the chair), Mr. Robert Dore and Mr. Philip Caffrey met at the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) The Curragh, Co. Kildare on Wednesday 28th November 2018, to consider reports from LGC Laboratory (UK), that the urine sample taken from Tornado Flyer following his win in the Racing Post Champion INH Flat Race (Grade 1) at Punchestown on 25th April, 2018, contained cetirizine. Under Rule 20(v) and Regulation 14 of the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules, cetirizine is a prohibited substance.

The trainer Mr. Mullins requested that the “B” portion of the sample be tested and the analysis carried out at Laboratoire des Courses Hippiques (France) confirmed the findings in the “A” portion of the sample.

Evidence was heard from Dr. Lynn Hillyer, IHRB Chief Veterinary Officer/Head of Anti-Doping regarding the investigation of the adverse analytical finding. She outlined that cetirizine is a prohibited substance due to its anti-histamine activity, commonly used in humans and increasingly used for therapeutic purposes in the horse.  She noted that research to develop a Detection Time for the medicine has recently led to a recommendation being made by the European Horserace Scientific Liaison Committee (of which the IHRB is a member), for the adoption of a Detection Time and associated Screening Limit of 100ng/ml for cetirizine. LGC estimated that the concentration found in the sample was between 4 and 6 ng/ml. Dr. Hillyer explained that the rationale of a Screening Limit is that it allows a Racing Authority to instruct its Laboratory not to produce a ‘positive’ result if a substance is present at a concentration below the Screening Limit.  She noted that Screening Limits are based on effect – the principle is that if a prohibited substance is present at a concentration below a Screening Limit, it has no effect on a mammalian system and therefore should not lead to the production of a ‘positive’ Certificate of Analysis.

In his evidence Mr. Mullins stated that the horse had not been administered cetirizine and the veterinary records which had been made available to the IHRB when he had been notified of the adverse analytical finding confirmed this.

Mr. Stephen Lanigan-O’Keeffe, made submissions to the Committee, He said that Mr. Mullins accepted that he was in breach of Rule 96(a). Mr. Lanigan-O’Keeffe referred to the discretion contained in Rule 96(a) regarding the imposition of sanction. He submitted that as research had been carried out and accepted by the European Horserace Scientific Liaison Committee which indicated a lack of effect of the substance at certain levels it would be unfair to sanction the horse and trainer when it was confirmed that the level found in the sample was significantly below the proposed new screening limit and meant that if the same sample was taken now it would not have been an adverse analytical finding. He noted that the specific circumstances of the case were unusual.

Having considered the evidence, the Committee noted the full cooperation of Mr Mullins during the investigation. They stated that it had been established and accepted that the adverse analytical finding related to a level of cetirizine estimated to be in the region of 4ng/ml. It had also been established that at the time of the sample being taken there was no screening limit in place for the substance. They noted that a new screening limit was in the process of being introduced. This being the case, the Committee exercised the discretion provided under Rule 96(a) and did not impose any sanction on either Tornado Flyer or the trainer.

The case was presented by Ms. Cliodhna Guy, Head of Legal & Compliance & Licensing.

Mr. Mullins was represented by Mr. Stephen Lanigan-O’Keeffe, S.C. instructed by Mr. Joseph Fitzpatrick, Smithwick Solicitors, Kilkenny.

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