Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Michael John O’Connor (Trainer), Prohibited Substance Referral – Ballinrobe, 29th May, 2018

The Referrals Committee, Mr. Justice Tony Hunt (in the chair), Mr. Justice Raymond Groarke and Mr. Philip Caffrey convened in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15 on Wednesday 19th December 2018, to consider reports from LGC Laboratories, Cambridgeshire, UK, that the Sample taken from Awbeg Prince following his win in the McHale F5500 Baler Hurdle at Ballinrobe on 29th May, 2018, was found to contain cobalt. Under Rule 20(v) of the Rules of Racing, cobalt is a prohibited substance when present in concentrations above the international threshold of 100 ng/ml as set out in Rule 20(v) and Regulation 14 of the Rules of Racing and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules.

The trainer, Mr. O’Connor requested that the “B” portion of the Sample be tested and the results of the analysis carried out at Laboratoire des Courses Hippiques, Paris, France confirmed the findings in the “A” portion of the sample.

Evidence was heard from Dr. Hillyer IHRB Chief Veterinary Officer/Head of Anti-Doping, Professor. Stuart Paine, University of Nottingham and Mr. O’Connor.

In her evidence Dr. Hillyer described the investigation that had taken place following the receipt of confirmation of the adverse analytical finding. She advised that Mr. O’Connor had provided information regarding the regime Awbeg Prince had been on prior to racing. She confirmed that the supplements had been reviewed and the level of vitamin B12 and cobalt contained therein did not indicate that the supplements were the source of the adverse analytical finding.

The Committee noted the contents of Professor Paine’s report. In his evidence he advised what the method of administration would have had to have been, the approximate amount of the administration and within what time period the administration would have had to have been given to result in the vitamin B12 and cobalt concentrations found in the sample based on current research. He confirmed that from the IHRB ‘s analysis the substance administered was vitamin B12, which contains cobalt, and not inorganic cobalt salts.

In his evidence Mr. O’Connor stated that he had taken Awbeg Prince into training from his owner two weeks prior to the race in question. He advised that the horse tended to appear light in frame and therefore he had him on the regimen of supplements. He outlined what occurred on the day of the race and confirmed that either he and/or Kate O’Donovan (sister of the owner) were with the horse at all times. He stated that he did not have any idea as to the source of the adverse analytical finding.

Having considered the evidence the Committee were satisfied that Mr. O’Connor was in breach of Rule 96(a). They disqualified “Awbeg Prince”, ordered that the stake be forfeited and amended the result of the race to read as follows:-

First:                Gallant John Joe

Second:            Fizzlestick

Third:               Optical Confusion

Fourth:             Glorious Legend

Fifth:                Feisty Madam

In considering penalty the Committee found that Mr. O’Connor had failed to take reasonable precautions to avoid a breach and imposed a fine of €1,000. They accepted the position of the IHRB that the substance had been administered by injection close to the race however they were not sufficiently satisfied that Mr. O’Connor was personally responsible for the administration and therefore took no further action against him. They also awarded costs of €500 in favour of the IHRB.

Mr. Michael John O’Connor was represented by Mr. Frank Crean B.L. instructed by David O’Meara of David J. O’Meara & Sons Solicitors, Mallow, Co. Cork.

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


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