Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Danny Grant (Rider) – Banned Substance, Curragh – 23 March 2014

 

The Referrals Committee, Judge Tony Hunt, (in the Chair), John Moloney and Paul Ronan met in the Turf Club, the Curragh, Co. Kildare on Thursday 28th August 2014 to consider a report from IMIM Hospitaldelmar in Barcelona, Spain regarding the fact that a sample of urine taken from Danny Grant, rider, during in-competition testing on 23rdMarch 2014 at The Curragh, Co. Kildare, was found to contain Benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl esther (metabolites of Cocaine). Under the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules Cocaine is a banned substance because it acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system with addictive and hallucinogenic properties and is prohibited in-competition pursuant to the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List International Standard as adopted by the Turf Club. Danny Grant requested that the ‘B’ sample also be analysed. The analysis of the ‘B’ sample was carried out on 16th June and it confirmed the results of the ‘A’ sample.

Evidence was heard from Dr Thomas Barragry, Pharmacologist, Dr Adrian McGoldrick, Senior Turf Club Medical Officer, Danny Grant, Pat Flynn, Trainer and Glen Norris, work colleague of Danny Grant.

Prior to the hearing, Coonan Cawley, Solicitors, on behalf of Danny Grant, submitted that the source of the positive finding was a herbal tea product called “Mate De Coca” tea which Mr. Grant had purchased online. The tea bags had been forwarded to the Turf Club for testing and the tests had indicated the presence of cocaine.

In his evidence Dr Thomas Barragry said that cocaine is a naturally occurring substance. It is a stimulant which suppresses appetite and releases adrenalin. He said that an overdose of cocaine can lead to a brain hemorrhage or a heart attack. He referred to the explanation from Mr. Grant that he had purchased the tea bags online and the reasons he advanced for the purchase was that the drinking of this product positively affected his skin condition. He said there is no evidence that coca, the main ingredient of the tea bags, had any effect on skin. He said there is an obligation on an athlete not to buy a product unless he knows what is in it, as an athlete is personally responsible for ensuring that the consumption of any product does not result in the committing of a doping offence. Dr Barragry also cautioned about buying product over the internet as there is no guarantee that such product is authentic. In conclusion, he noted that it was clearly stated on the tea bag that one of the main ingredients was erythroxylon coca. He said that this is a South American plant that is well known because it produces cocaine.

In his evidence Dr Adrian McGoldrick confirmed that Danny Grant had a skin condition the treatment of which was very difficult. He said he had no idea if “Mate De Coca” tea would help his skin condition. He noted that the tea bags were made from the coca leaf.

In his evidence Danny Grant outlined the background to the purchase of the tea bags. He said his skin was in a bad condition before Christmas which was brought on by stress. He said a friend, who had a similar condition, had told him about the tea bags and he decided to try them. He started taking the tea bags in January and purchased his own supply in February as he found they helped him. He outlined his personal circumstances and said that because of his condition his number of rides was down in 2014.

In his evidence, Pat Flynn said that Mr. Grant’s skin condition was the reason for his falling number of rides as he frequently had to give up rides at short notice. He said that he had a very good work ethic and was never late for work. He said that Mr. Grant told him that he thought the product was natural.

In his evidence Glen Norris said he knew Danny very well and that he was familiar with Danny’s condition. He said that he could understand why he would do what he could to alleviate his problem.

Having considered the evidence the committee asked Mr. Grant to provide the following documentary evidence relating to the purchases:-
1. The dates that the “Mate de Coca” tea bags were purchased
2. Details of the websites that were viewed prior to the purchase of the tea bags
3. Receipts for the product purchased
4. Any other relevant information relating to the purchases

Mr. Grant provided details of the website that he used to purchase the tea bags. However he was unable to provide any other relevant documentation or information. His solicitor also submitted a further letter clarifying mitigating factors.

Having considered the further submissions the committee decided that the evidence established the commission of a doping offence contrary to Rule 278(ii)(a) and the under Rule 279(ii)(c) the laboratory certificate from IMIM Hospitaldelmar was sufficient evidence of this.

This offence was aggravated by the fact that it was the second such offence committed by Mr. Grant, a similar offence having occurred in October 2009. Ordinarily, the Committee was of the view that a second such offence should attract a disqualification of at least two years.

However, the Committee considered that there were very strong mitigating factors outlined in the evidence and the submissions. In particular, the Committee took account of the following factors:-

1. Mr. Grant suffered from a serious and long-standing skin condition.
2. Mr. Grant purchased the tea bags in question in a misguided attempt to treat this painful condition.
3. The tea bags contained the coca leaf which was responsible for generating the presence of metabolites of cocaine in the sample taken from Mr. Grant.
4. This was not a case where the metabolites were present due to illicit drug use, but rather due to reckless ingestion of the tea made from the coca leaf. The recklessness stemmed from the previous doping offence, which ought to have highlighted to Mr. Grant the risks of taking such substances without medical advice.
5. Mr. Grant’s difficult personal, medical and financial circumstances.
6. His co-operation with the considerations of the Committee.
7. The positive testimonials and character evidence submitted on his behalf.

Accordingly, the Committee imposed a two year disqualification from 9th December 2014, but in the light of the mitigating factors outlined above, they suspended the last 18 months of the penalty on condition that the balance thereof could be activated immediately by any Referrals Committee which found at any future time that Mr. Grant had committed a further doping offence during the period of suspension, together with such further penalty in respect of the future offence as might be appropriate. They further ordered that a condition of the suspension was that Danny Grant submit to drug testing at any time during the entire period of the penalty, at the direction and discretion of the Turf Club medical officer.

In the light of Mr. Grant’s circumstances and the imposition of a period of disqualification, the Committee did not order him to pay any costs.

ONCE MORE, THE COMMITTEE WISHES TO DRAW TO THE ATTENTION OF RIDERS THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH MEDICAL AND OTHER REMEDIES IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ANTI-DOPING RULES, AND STRONGLY RECOMMENDS RIDERS CONTEMPLATING SELF-MEDICATION TO TAKE MEDICAL ADVICE PRIOR TO SAME, EITHER FROM THE TURF CLUB DOCTOR , OR OTHERWISE.

The case was presented by Conal Boyce, Solicitor, Naas, Co. Kildare. Danny Grant was represented by Andrew Coonan, Coonan Cawley, Solicitors, Naas, Co. Kildare.


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