Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Michael Winters (Trainer), Prohibited Substance Referral Cork - 19th November 2017

The Referrals Committee, Robert Dore (in the chair), Laurence McFerran and Mrs J.O. Onions met at the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), The Curragh, Co. Kildare on Thursday, 8th March 2018 to consider whether or not Michael Winters, Trainer, was in breach of any rules as a result of a report received from Laboratoire des Courses Hippiques (LCH) in Paris, which stated that the biological fluid sample taken from Granny Biddy following her win in the J.P. McManus Handicap Hurdle at Cork on 19th November 2017 was found to contain meloxicam which, under Rule 20 (v) and Regulation 14 of the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules is a prohibited substance.

The trainer requested that the B sample be tested and the finding of meloxicam in the B sample was confirmed by LGC Laboratories in Fordham, UK.

Evidence was heard from Dr Thomas Barragry, Pharmacologist and Michael Winters.  The Committee also noted a report from Nicola O’Connor MVB following a visit to Mr Winters’s Training Establishment.

In his evidence, Dr Thomas Barragry said that meloxicam is an anti-inflammatory which is a more modern drug than phenylbutazone.  He said it was very potent, with fewer side effects, with the result that it was used a lot in horses.  Dr Barragry noted that the drug is eliminated quickly from the horse, usually within 3 days and that it is normally given orally.  Based on the estimated levels of the drug found in Granny Biddy, he estimated that the drug was given to the horse between 72 and 56 hours before she ran.

In his evidence, Michael Winters said that he had no idea how the horse was positive for meloxicam as no horse in his yard was on the substance.  He outlined a number of possible scenarios as to how the horse could have come into contact with the drug, ranging from cross contamination from a human source, to ingesting it as a result of travelling to the races in a contaminated horsebox which he had borrowed for the day. 

As a result of the evidence given by Mr Winters, the Committee invited Dr Barragry to make further observations.

Dr Barragry noted that only a minute percentage of the parent drug is passed in human urine and as such, it was unlikely that this was the source of the drug.  He also said that he felt it was unlikely that the horsebox was the source.

Concluding his evidence, Mr Winters said that he had no other explanation as to how the drug was found in Granny Biddy and that he never had a need for the drug in his yard.

Having considered the evidence the Committee were satisfied that Michael Winters was in breach of Rule 96 (a).

The Committee disqualified Granny Biddy from 1st place and ordered that the race result be amended to read as follows: -                            

1st – Montys Meadow

2nd – Cliff House

3rd – Grand Partner

4th – Getoutwhenyoucan

5th – Kilcarry Bridge

They also imposed a fine of €1,000 on Michael Winters and ordered that he pay a contribution of €600 towards the IHRB’s costs.

The case presented to the Committee by Cliodhna Guy, Head of Legal, Compliance and Licensing.


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