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A. J. Martin (Trainer) Prohibited Substance Referral – Dundalk 18th January 2023

The Referrals Committee, Ms. Susan Ahern (Chair), Mr. John Murphy and Mr. John Maguire convened in the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on 16 August 2023 and reconvened on 27 November 2023 to consider whether or not Mr. A.J. Martin (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 6 February 2023, confirmed that the urine sample taken from Firstman following his win in the View Restaurant At Dundalk Stadium Handicap at Dundalk on 18 January 2023 was confirmed by LGC Laboratories to contain 3-Hydroxylidocaine.

The option of ‘B’ sample analysis was requested by Mr. Martin on 22nd February. The ‘B’ sample was confirmed by LCH, France as returning an adverse analytical finding for 3-Hydroxylidocaine.

Evidence was heard at the hearing from Dr. Lynn Hillyer, IHRB Chief Veterinary Officer & Head of Equine Anti-Doping, Ms. Colleen Murphy, IHRB Veterinary Assistant, Mr. Jim Martin, CEO Dundalk Racecourse Mr. A.J. Martin, Trainer, Ms. Catherine O’Leary, stable representative, Mr. Mattie Lynch, stable representative, Mr. Michael Halford, Trainer, Mr. Ryan McElligott, CEO Irish Racehorse Trainers Association.


The full written decision issued on behalf of the Referrals Committee is set below:



  1. The IHRB Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules 2021 edition (the “Rules”) apply to the instant proceedings as they were in place at the time of the sample collection.
  2. This matter relates to an adverse analytical finding (“AAF”) in a horse trained by Mr. Martin called Firstman, who won the 3:45pm handicap race on 18 January 2023 in Dundalk. The AAF related to the presence of 3-Hydroxylidocaine in a urine sample (no. 5365937) taken post-race (the “Sample”).
  3. On 30 January 2023 the IHRB was notified by the LGC Laboratory that there was a screening finding for 3-Hydroxylidocaine in the Sample. Confirmatory analysis was conducted and the LGC Laboratory Certificate of Analysis issued on 6 February 2023 confirmed an AAF for 3-Hydroxylidocaine at an estimated concentration of 200 ng/ml.
  4. The B Sample analysis, requested by the Respondent, was conducted at LCH, France and the Certificate of Analysis dated 16 March 2023 (provided to IHRB on 5 April 2023) reported a positive finding for 3-Hydroxylidocaine.
  5. 3-Hydroxylidocaine (“lidocaine”) is a local anesthetic used to block pain and it is permitted inter alia for legitimate veterinary surgery. As a medication, lidocaine is controlled in regulatory equine antidoping policy by a published International Screening Limit (“ISL”) of 10 ng/ml for the metabolite 3-hydroxylidocaine in urine, linked to a Detection Time of 72 hours (for the specific dose of 300mg/15mL, single dose 60mg/3mL, single dose administered subcutaneously).
  6. Under Rule 20 (v) the Schedule of Prohibited Substances is issued by the IHRB. Lidocaine is listed as a Prohibited Substance. Lidocaine is further a substance prohibited on race day pursuant to Rule 96(a) of the Rules.
  7. Following the positive screening, an investigation was initiated by the IHRB which included the carrying out of an unannounced inspection sampling at the Respondent’s licensed premises on 1 February 2023 by members of the IHRB Veterinary team. The following details emerged:
  • A large number of veterinary medicinal products, including supplements, equine influenza vaccines, needles, syringes and Vacutainers for taking blood samples were identified, many of which did not have an accompanying prescription or label;
  • The Medicines Register was found not to be up to date, the last entry being August 2022;
  • Products including bottles of Bexco Sarablock obtained from the car of Mr. Donncha Houlihan MVB, the Respondent’s veterinary surgeon who was attending to various horses on the licensed premises that day.
  1. In relation to Firstman, prescriptions were provided which showed that he had been administered veterinary medicinal products by two different veterinary surgeons on 17 January 2023, the day prior to the Dundalk race:
  • Prescription 2023000179 certified by Veterinary Surgeon Edele Grey of Greenmount Equine Hospital documented the intramuscular administration of 10 mL Cartrophen®;
  • Prescription 2023000239 certified by Veterinary Surgeon Donncha Houlihan MVB MRCVS of Greenmount Equine Hospital documented the intramuscular administration of 10 mL Cartrophen® and the administration by unspecified route of 10 mL of ‘Sarablock’; and
  • a further intramuscular administration of 10mls Cartrophen® on 20 January 2023.
  1. None of the products identified as prescribed to Firstman or identified at the Licensed premises of the Respondent were reported to contain lidocaine. The Applicant notified the Respondent on 17 February 2023 that the Bexco Sarablock product (now withdrawn from the market by its distributors) had been reported by the LGC laboratory not to contain lidocaine.
  2. All horses at the Respondent’s Licensed premises (nine (9) in number including Firstman) were subject to blood and hair sampling by the IHRB. No positive tests emerged from these samples.
  3. No explanation for the presence of lidocaine was provided by the Respondent prior to the commencement of disciplinary proceedings under the Rules.
  4. The background facts are not in dispute between the Parties.

Procedural Matters

  1. On 5 July 2023 the Respondent was notified that this matter was being submitted to a Referrals Committee for hearing and was provided with the documentation pack and witness list. On 9 August 2023 the Respondent was advised of the hearing date and notified of the specific charges against him, as follows:

1.     Rule 96 (a) in respect of the adverse analytical findings;

  1. Rule 148 (i) for failure to provide a satisfactory explanation for the adverse finding, the treatment and welfare of the horse and for the matters occurring under his care as a licensed trainer;
  2. Rule 148 (iii)(b) regarding the failure to maintain a complete Medicines Register;
  3. Rule 272(i) for behaving in a manner which is prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing; and
  4. Rule 273 (i) for the administration or the facilitation of administration of a Prohibited Substance to a horse under his care and control as a licensed trainer.”
  5. The Referrals Committee was appointed by the IHRB in July 2023, to consider the matter. The hearing was scheduled for 16 August 2023 at the IHRB offices.
  6. At the outset of the hearing Counsel for the Trainer indicated that earlier in the morning two scientific papers from the Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics (2018) and the Journal of Chromatography (2018 to 2022) were presented by the Applicant, the substance of which is alleged to support the proposition that the AAF could not have been caused by a local contaminant. In order to properly defend his position, the Respondent would need a relevant scientific expert (a toxicologist or pharmacologist) to address the papers and determine if they have any merit.
  7. It was determined by the Committee that the case would proceed, and the available evidence presented, and the matter would be returned to at the conclusion of the available evidence. At the conclusion of the proceedings the Committee determined that the hearing should be adjourned to enable the relevant expert evidence to be acquired by the Respondent and the Applicant. All further witness requests were rejected.
  8. Case management was undertaken in the intervening period. Ultimately, the Respondent, having been given time to obtain expert evidence, did not ultimately submit any. By contrast the IHRB submitted the report of Professor Stuart Paine dated 29 October 2023.
  9. The reconvened hearing commenced on 27 November 2023. Professor Paine was not called as a witness.

Relevant Rules

  1. Rule 20 (v):

The Directors of the IHRB have all the powers of the Stewards and the following additional powers….

(v) To publish from time to time in such a manner as they deem appropriate:

(a) a schedule of prohibited substances including any thresholds therefor and

(b) regulations for the taking of Samples. The current version of which schedule (“Schedule of Prohibited Substances”) and regulations is contained in Regulation R14 Appendix C “Regulations Relating To The Taking Of Samples From Horses”.”


  1. Rule 96(a): “When a Horse has been examined or tested and Samples taken pursuant to Rule 18 and such examination or test or an analysis of such Samples shows the presence of any Prohibited Substance, unless the concentration of the Prohibited Substance is below the threshold level for that substance (if any) as set out in the Schedule of Prohibited Substances, it shall be a breach of these Rules and the Referrals Committee or the Appeals Body as the case may be, may direct that:
  • the Horse be restricted from running for such time as it shall determine;
  • the Horse be disqualified for the Race(s) in question, the placings amended and the stake forfeited;
  • the Trainer of the Horse be fined not less than €1,000; and/or
  • the Trainer’s licence be withdrawn for such period as it may consider appropriate.

However, the Referrals Committee or the Appeals Body, as the case may be, may waive the fine if it is satisfied that the Prohibited Substance was administered unknowingly and that the Trainer had taken all reasonable precautions to avoid a breach of this Rule…”

  1. Rule 148 (i): “A Trainer shall be responsible (except where otherwise provided in these Rules) for everything connected with the welfare, training and running of all Horses under the care of that Trainer and shall be liable to any sanction available to the Stewards, the Referrals Committee, the Licensing Committee or the Appeals Body, as the case may be, unless the Trainer provides a satisfactory explanation.”


  1. Rule 148 (iii) (b): “Each Trainer must keep a completed Medicines Register in the manner prescribed in respect of each training establishment and must ensure that the use of all medicines is carefully recorded in the Medicines Register including the date and method of administration, treatment or substance administered, amount administered (if applicable), duration of treatment and name and signature of person administering and must be kept up to date at all times. The Medicines Register must be made available for inspection when requested to do so by the Directors of the IHRB, the Referrals Committee, the Licensing Committee or the Appeals Body as the case may be or by persons authorised by any of the foregoing. The Medicines Register must be kept for a minimum period of one year after the last entry. Failure to keep a completed Medicines Register in the manner prescribed or to make the Medicines Register available for inspection when requested to do so shall be a breach of these Rules and the matter shall be referred to the Referrals Committee for consideration.”


  1. Rule 271: “The standard of proof to be applied in all Stewards’ Enquiries and in all cases before the Licensing Committee, the Referrals Committee or the Appeals Body shall be the balance of probabilities”.


  1. Rule 272 (i): “Any person involved in horseracing who, within the jurisdiction of the IHRB; (i) whether verbally or by conduct or behaviour, acts in a manner which is prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing (whether or not such behaviour or conduct, verbal or otherwise is associated directly with horseracing)… shall be in breach of these Rules and liable to sanction”.


  1. Rule 273 (i): “Any person who administers or attempts to administer or causes to be administered or connives at the administration to a Horse of any Prohibited Substance shall be guilty of a breach of these Rules and may be declared a disqualified person or otherwise penalised by the Referrals Committee or the Appeals Body, as the case may be, in accordance with its powers under these Rules. Any person who interferes with, or obstructs, or evades, or refuses or fails to submit to, or attempts to interfere with or obstruct the taking of Samples from a Horse pursuant to Rule 18 or Rule 20 (xviii), or interferes or tampers with such a Sample once taken, shall be guilty of a breach of these Rules and may be declared a disqualified person or otherwise penalised by the Referrals Committee or the Appeals Body, as the case may be, in accordance with its powers under these Rules”.

The Hearing

  1. Below is a summary of the relevant facts and allegations based on the parties’ written submissions, pleadings and evidence adduced at the hearings. Additional facts and allegations found in the parties’ written submissions, pleadings and evidence may be set out, where relevant, in connection with the legal discussion that follows.  While the Committee has considered all the facts, allegations, legal arguments and evidence submitted by the parties in the present proceedings, it refers in its Decision only to the submissions and evidence it considers necessary to explain its reasoning. 
  2. The Respondent at the outset of the proceedings accepted:
  • the AAF for the presence of 3-Hydroxylidocaine in the Sample of Firstman and that the level of the Prohibited Substance was greater than the ISL and that a breach of Rule 96(a) arises; and
  • that a breach of Rule 148 (iii)(b), namely failing to maintain a complete medicines register had occurred.
  1. In light of the above admissions, the Respondent’s case is that he is seeking to establish that the Prohibited Substance was administered unknowingly and that he had taken all reasonable precautions to avoid a breach of this Rule and applicable sanctions (if any) that might apply to the admitted breaches of Rules 96 (a) and 148 (iii)(b). Consideration will also be given to whether the Respondent has breached any of Rules 148 (i), 272 (i), and/or 273 (i) which were not admitted.


Submissions on behalf of the Applicant

  1. The IHRB set out the background to the Sample collection from Firstman and the establishment of the positive finding for 3-Hydroxylidocaine in his Sample which was both confirmed by the B Sample and accepted by the Respondent. Therefore, it had met its burden of proof and a breach of Rule 96 (a) had occurred for which no explanation was provided, and it was a matter for the Referrals Committee to consider the appropriate sanction. Reliance was also placed upon the expert evidence and testimony of Dr. Lynn Hillyer and witness testimony of Mr. Jim Martin to disprove the theory that the lidocaine emanated from contaminated bedding at Dundalk Racecourse.
  2. Rule 148 (iii)(b) requires an up-to-date medicines register to be kept. The medicines register in relation to all of the horses at the time of the inspection of the Trainers premises in February 2023 had not been filled out / completed in relation to all of those horses since August 2022. Reliance was placed upon the oral evidence and the Inspection Report of Ms. Colleen Murphy IHRB Senior Veterinary Assistant presented at the Hearing.

Submissions on behalf of the Respondent

  1. The Respondent undertook his own investigation to try to determine the source of the Prohibited Substance which included: a thorough review of the stabling and medical records of all horses on the Licensed premises for the period of thirty days prior to 18 January 2023 focusing in particular on whether any horse had been castrated or a mare stitched, being acts of veterinary medicine in which products containing lidocaine are widely used but neither had occurred in the period. Thereafter, a review of staff was conducted on the basis that lidocaine is the most commonly used cutting agent in cocaine and it was submitted that those ordinarily in charge of Firstman are not known cocaine users.


  1. The fact that the samples taken on 1 February 2023 from the horses at the Licensed premises were all clear made it appear unlikely that the exposure occurred while Firstman was at the Respondent’s premises.


  1. The basis of the defence was that this case concerned environmental contamination and was not a deliberate act on the part of the Trainer. Rather, as a matter of probability, because of the way the Dundalk racecourse recycles bedding, the likely source of the contaminant was from the recycled bedding.

-    Reliance was placed upon the evidence of Ms. Catherine O’Leary, Michael Halford and Ryan McElligott in this regard.

-    Evidence of a past complaint by the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association CEO Michael Grassick on 14 January 2022 regarding recycled bedding at Dundalk Racecourse was submitted in evidence.

-    A protocol issued by the IHRB in November 2022 sets out the essential need for cleaning of racecourse yard stables. It says: "Where trainers have specific issues regarding facilities or standards at a racecourse, these should be raised with the racecourse manager in the first instance. If not resolved, then the IHRB Licensing Department should be advised in writing. The IHRB is not aware of any racecourse having a policy of reusing or recycling bedding and no evidence has been provided to us of this having taken place."

  1. The concentration level in Firstman’s Sample was estimated at 200 ng/ml and it was submitted by the Respondent that the exposure must have occurred in the period close to race time. This is reinforced by the short excretion periods associated with the lidocaine substance, being advised as 72 hours “but widely accepted as being closer to 48 hours” – relying upon the 1998 paper of Tom Tobin et al.
  2. In relation to the breach of Rule 148 (iii) (b), in mitigation it should be clear that while the medicines register was not up to date, the relevant prescriptions were available to inspect at the time of the IHRB Inspection. With fifty horses at the yard, maintaining the register takes considerable time, especially if it falls behind. During the impugned period the staff member responsible for maintaining the register left the Respondent’s employment and this contributed to the lapse. A new staff member is now responsible for maintaining the register and it is now up to date.

Evidence of Jim Martin

  1. Martin is the CEO and Manager of Dundalk Racecourse. In relation to the stable management at Dundalk Racecourse, he noted that he had overall responsibility for the protocols and the hygiene maintenance of the stables on raceday. Post raceday this involved mucking out the stables. The protocol, in place since 2007 involved removing soiled newspaper to the muck heap and the unsoiled paper is gathered into five tonne gravel bags and later collected by a local showjumper. The stables are then power washed clean, and the power washed again using Equizer disinfectant (as recommended by the IHRB).
  2. It is a matter of choice for the stable staff to choose bags of shavings or bags of paper to bed down the stables. Most (c95%) choose newspaper. It is stored in sealed tied plastic bags which come from the single Racecourse supplier. Mr. Martin was consistent in his evidence that the Racecourse does not recycle the clean paper bedding for reuse. On the day of the race on 18 January 2023, he was unable to say if the stable in which Firstman was lodged was wet or dry but confirmed they are washed out following the races.
  3. It was put to him that the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (“IRTA”) was unhappy with the way Dundalk was presented to trainers and runners and that complaints had been made. This was rejected by Mr. Martin although a complaint by the IRTA in 2022 involving the IHRB and its subsequent investigation and findings was discussed.

Evidence of Colleen Murphy

  1. Murphy is the Senior Veterinary Assistant of the IHRB. The unannounced inspection of the Respondent’s premises on 1 February 2023 was discussed in detail, noting that full co-operation was afforded to the investigation team. Samples (blood and hair) were collected from 9 horses including Firstman (all of which were negative). The inspection team undertook an inventory of the various medicines and remedies found on the premises and compared them to whether there was a prescription or not. 29 medicines, tonics, supplements and feeds are listed on the stable inspection record. No unauthorised animal remedies were found.
  2. Pages 19 and 20 of the medicines register were allocated to Firstman. There were two prescriptions for Firstman on 17 January 2023 by veterinarians Edele Grey and Donncha Houlihan for the same drug – Cartrophen® for which there were no entries on the medicines register and a further administration on 20 January 2023.

Evidence of Dr. Lynn Hillyer

  1. As the Chief Veterinary Officer and Head of Anti-Doping of the IHRB, Dr. Hillyer gave evidence, inter alia, of the screening process for drugs and the confirmatory process. She explained that there was a finding of 3-hydroxylidocaine in the Sample, that was confirmed by LGC laboratory and then counter-analysed by the laboratory in France as containing 3-hydroxylidocaine. And that there was no source from which the IHRB investigation team could find, and no explanation was offered.
  2. Hillyer explained why screening limits are permitted for certain Prohibited Substances including lidocaine. International Screening Limits (“ISL”) are scientifically determined harmonised limits agreed following input by international consensus, as the detection limits to be used by the laboratories when screening for certain therapeutic substances. Above the screening limit the relevant drug has an effect and below the screening limit it does not, and such limits are set by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (“IFHA”).
  3. The Prohibited Substance found in Firstman’s Sample was the metabolite 3-hydroxylidocaine. It is not the parent drug, but rather the product of what happened when it has gone through the horse. The metabolite is used as the substance to determine anti-doping control. Its screening limit is linked with the detection time of 72 hours. This is the minimum time that must be observed between the administration of the substance and the race day. The studies indicate that the detection time for injectable lidocaine subcutaneously, single dose at 300 milligrams (so-called high dose), and 60 milligrams (so-called low dose), resulted in largely the same detection time. The only difference in the studies, she explained, was that the peak was reached earlier in the higher dose.
  4. In this case, a review of the ratio of the parent drug (lidocaine) against the metabolite (3-hydroxylidocaine) reveals a 40-fold difference. Lidocaine is a very short-acting drug. It has an effect in a very short period of time, a matter of between four and six hours, and then it has no effect after that. The parent drug was estimated to be present at 5 milligrams per ml, while the metabolite was 200 ng/ml estimated. This in Dr. Hillyer’s opinion meant that based on the “available literature and an understanding of that ratio that it is likely/probable that exposure occurred on race day, close to race time and I think we're not to go into that area, but it's a matter of hours rather than days is the important part”.
  5. Hillyer also addressed the issue of the medical condition of the horse. Because there was no documented evidence other than the prescriptions for Cartrophen®, it was not known what was wrong with Firstman or why he was prescribed Cartrophen®, there was no indication of the treatment afforded him / a medicines register with information on it. Cartrophen® is often used to treat osteoarthritis in horses, legitimately, under the cascade approach by a veterinary surgeon. Because Cartrophen® has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, “a disease-modifying anti-arthritic drug”, she concluded that Firstman must have had an issue that needed treating. What was not clear at the time she wrote her report (19 June 2023) was why the horse was given the anti-inflammatory medicine by two different veterinary surgeons. Subsequently the horse was stopped from running (1 July 2023) because he was lame. It was noted that the horse has not ridden since.
  6. The mode of delivery of lidocaine is orally, accidentally or purposefully eating something, intravenous, subcutaneous or topical. When asked which she considered of these methods to be the most likely entry given the ratio of Prohibited Substance she indicated “ Unequivocally…the only one that has that gap, that 40 fold gap between the metabolites, according to the published paper, the literature that we’re talking about, is the topical route of administration”. Dr. Hillyer did not consider that the volume of substance which was ultimately found in Firstman could be achieved through environmental contamination from soiled newspaper lining the stable box as “the volume and the amount of parent drug that would have to go into the horse would be significant…tens and hundreds of mls, not a couple of mls of a lidocaine containing solution.”
  7. During cross examination Dr. Hillyer addressed questions relating to the 2022 IHRB investigation into the allegation that Dundalk Racecourse recycled bedding and in relation to the guidance document developed by the IHRB in the context of horse biosecurity for the proper presentation of stables at racecourses, now superseded by the Racecourse Manual. She addressed the differences between a stable being wet as a consequence of a clean out and one wet due to urine and indicated that if a trainer is unhappy with an allocated stable they can ask for another one. She also addressed the question of sealed bedding bags in the following manner:

“…if the bag is closed and tied as we saw in that photograph or video from last night, sufficient it's not falling all over the place, you're not talking about a material that is being prepared for surgical procedures. The sealing part… It should be clean and dry of course and from a known source that doesn't have contaminants floating around the place…. It’s quality control…”



Evidence of Catherine O’Leary

  1. O’Leary was the travelling head lass and sister of the Trainer, who had accompanied Firstman to Dundalk, arriving at the racecourse yard circa 13.45. When she brought Firstman to his allocated stable, she noted the stable was still wet “from the power hosing”, and had not dried out. She collected two bags of paper, the preferred bedding of the Trainer, which are supplied by Dundalk racecourse. Neither bag was sealed, they were tied at the top in a knot and “you can put your hand under the knot and you can carry two bags”. The paper in the bags “is just loose… it’s not packed and it’s not sealed”. In cross examination she indicated that she had no particular concern about the paper when she used it on 18 January 2023 and had likely used paper for bedding at Dundalk at subsequent meetings in February 2023.
  2. O’Leary affirmed that Firstman was not muzzled in the stable at Dundalk as he does not like a muzzle on his face and was known to nuzzle his bedding in particular when entering a new stable and did so in Dundalk. He was in the stable between approximately 13:45 until 15:30 on 18 January 2023.

Evidence of Michael Halford

  1. Mr Halford is a racehorse trainer and is a leading trainer at Dundalk Racecourse. He gave evidence of the usual condition of the stables at Dundalk and in relation to the available bedding. He generally takes the paper as the shavings may be dusty. The paper is contained in bags that are loosely tied with a knot and the contents are quite loose. The used paper bedding is sorted into contaminated content which is removed and “the clean stuff is put over in a corner of the stables and they go round with a big five tonne bag…and they throw the clean stuff into it". His evidence was that he did not have confidence that the paper in the bags was not recycled and did not have confidence in the IHRB investigation of the use of recycled paper bedding at Dundalk Racecourse. However, he continues to use it because that is what is available.

Evidence of Ryan McElligott

  1. Mr McElligott is the CEO of the IRTA. His evidence related to a past complaint of the IRTA about whether the Dundalk Racecourse bedding being recycled arising (the 2022 investigation) and to the fact that the bags containing the paper are not sealed and not compacted.

Evidence of Matthew Lynch

  1. Lynch is the Stable Secretary for the Respondent’s stable yard. Maintaining the medicines register is part of his function, which was previously held by another person until their departure in 2018. His evidence was that at the time of the IHRB inspection in February 2023 the register (black file) together with the folder of prescriptions (green file) was up to date to December 2022 for Firstman, while the January 2023 scripts were on his desk. He updates the register monthly but the scripts for the intervening period were available. He now updates the register fortnightly.

Evidence of Anthony Martin

  1. Martin described the normal use of lidocaine on his premises would be to castrate a horse and this would be under veterinary treatment. He has done his best to try to determine the source of the lidocaine and was prompted by some high profile IHRB cases to look to feed and bedding as potential sources of contamination. He explained that the medicines register is now up to date. He fairly and clearly acknowledges that compliance with the anti-doping rules is his responsibility and he had done all the relevant check with the veterinary personnel and his staff with regard to source but noted that he still did not know the source. He gave evidence as to the detrimental effect that his family run yard would suffer if his Licence was taken.


  1. In accordance with Rule 271 the standard of proof to be applied to this matter is the balance of probabilities and this is the standard which was applied by the Committee.
  2. Rule 96(a) provides that if an anti-doping sample shows the presence of any Prohibited Substance, unless the concentration of the Prohibited Substance is below the threshold level for that substance as set out in the Schedule of Prohibited Substances, it shall be a breach of the Rules. The Sample contained lidocaine - which is a local anesthetic and is permissible in horses in training but subject to a controlled ISL in samples taken on raceday. The ISL reflects the concentration at which the substance is known to have effect. The estimated concentration of lidocaine metabolite reported by the laboratory in the Sample was 20 fold the permissible ISL for lidocaine metabolite.
  3. The presence of 3-Hydroxylidocaine was fairly admitted by the Respondent at the outset.
  4. The Parties were in agreement that, given the concentration of the Prohibited Substance in Firstman’s Sample, it was likely that exposure occurred on race day.
  5. The Committee considered the contamination defence of the Respondent. The evidence of the witnesses was considered together with the medical and other evidence including in relation to the 2022 investigation undertaken by the IHRB into the alleged use of recycled bedding at Dundalk Racecourse. The IHRB investigation in 2022, which included a physical inspection, concluded that recycled bedding was not used. The Committee was not satisfied that the exoneration of the Dundalk Racecourse following an investigation by the IHRB one year previously, could be used as a basis for establishing that such a practice of recycling bedding at the racecourse was ongoing and/or occurred on 18 January 2023 in the absence of any evidence and there was no evidence submitted which demonstrated on the balance of probabilities that the bedding was being recycled at Dundalk in the manner claimed.
  6. The newspaper which is alleged to have caused the presence of the Prohibited Substances was never tested. In the absence of the Respondent establishing a close and credible link between the bedding at Dundalk Racecourse on 18 January 2023 as the source of the lidocaine contamination, and in sufficient quantities to result in a finding which was 20 times the ISL permissible level, the Committee were not persuaded on the balance of probabilities that the bedding was the source of the lidocaine in Firstman’s Sample. On the basis of the evidence presented, no convincing case was made out for environmental contamination being the most likely explanation for the positive Sample.
  7. Identification of the source of the Prohibited Substance remains a crucial factor in deciding if the Respondent has succeeded in discharging his burden of proof of demonstrating to the Committee that the Prohibited Substance was administered unknowingly and that the Trainer had taken all reasonable precautions to avoid a breach of the Rule 96 (a). In the absence of direct evidence or cogent circumstantial evidence in cases where the source of the contamination is no longer available, of how the lidocaine came to be present in Firstman’s Sample it is not possible to eliminate the possibility that the presence could be attributed to intentional administration. Further, the lapse in maintenance of the Respondent’s medicines register was an indicator to the Committee that that the Respondent had not taken all reasonable precautions to avoid a breach of Rule 96 (a).
  8. In relation to Rule 148 (i) the Committee considered that the Trainer had endeavoured to provide a satisfactory explanation for the adverse finding but had failed in that regard. This is the natural consequence of the Trainer being unable to demonstrate the route of ingestion or source of the Prohibited Substance on the balance of probabilities. The Committee was of the view that while there was a breach of this Rule, a supplemental or aggravated sanction should not apply.
  9. It is a natural consequence of a finding of a breach of Rule 96 (a) which is found to be the fault of the Trainer that this equates to a failure which is prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct or good reputation of horseracing in contravention of Rule 272 (i) of the Rules. However, the Committee is of the view that given it is the one action or inaction which has resulted in the AAF for Firstman that the Trainer should not be punished for each breach, rather they should be considered on a cumulative basis.
  10. Rule 273 (i) of the Rules provides that a person who administers or attempts to administer or causes to be administered or connives at the administration to a horse of any Prohibited Substance shall be guilty of a breach of these Rules. While the Committee is satisfied that the presence of a Prohibited Substance has been well established, it was not presented with any direct evidence of deliberate administration of lidocaine. The Committee was invited by the Applicant to infer from the evidence that lidocaine was deliberately administered. In circumstances where an unannounced yard inspection found no traces of lidocaine and none of the other horses tested on that date resulted in positive tests, and in the light of the denial of the Respondent that any such deliberate administration took place, the Committee must exercise caution before coming to the conclusion that there was deliberate doping administration in this case. The Committee finds on the balance of probabilities that it is unable to say how Firstman came to test positive for the lidocaine metabolite 3-Hydroxylidocaine.
  11. Having considered the evidence from the IHRB Inspection Report and evidence of Ms. Murphy together with the early and cogent admission of the Respondent that his Medicines Register had not been kept up to date since August 2022, the Committee was satisfied that a breach of Rule 148 (iii)(b) was established. The Committee had regard to the mitigation submissions of the Trainer and Mr. Lynch’s evidence, and it is also noted that the IHRB at the time of the conclusion of the hearing confirmed that the medicines register of the Respondent was in fact now up to date.


  1. In considering the appropriate sanctions the Committee has regard to the principle of proportionality and considers both aggravating and mitigating factors. Submissions on sanction were made by both Parties and these were considered by the Committee together with the precedent cases referenced.
  2. The Committee took congnisance of the early admissions made by the Respondent which greatly truncated the case, his full co-operation with the disciplinary process and his obvious candour. The personal circumstances of the Respondent were well ventilated at the hearing, and it is sufficient to say that consequences of a significant sanction, in particular one that may involve the removal of his Licence, is likely to have severe implications for his stable yard and may put it in jeopardy.
  3. Equally, the Committee is aware that this is not the first occasion in recent years where the Respondent has been in breach of the anti-doping Rules of the IHRB. The Committee was made aware of the prior disciplinary record of the Respondent, namely the disqualification for TCA (corticosteroid) findings for his horse Moonmeister in 2019 with accompanying fine of €1,000 (waived); and the fine of €1,500 for Patsy’s Honour in 2022 and €250 for his medicines register not being up to date. While these were explained by the Respondent, they nevertheless remain part of his record and are relevant for the purposes of sanctioning.
  4. The Referrals Committee has the power vested in it pursuant to Rule 19A and Rule 96(a) to impose sanctions for established breaches of the Rules.
  5. In relation to the breach of Rule 148 (iii)(b) the Committee determines that the appropriate sanction is:
  • Anthony J. Martin shall be fined €1,000.
  1. In relation to the breaches of Rule 96 (a), Rule 148 (i) and Rule 272 (i) the Committee determines on a cumulative basis that the appropriate sanction is:
  • The horse Firstman is no longer restricted from running from the date of this decision.
  • The horse Firstman shall be disqualified from the Dundalk 3.45pm race on 18 January 2023, the stake forfeit and the placings in the race shall be altered accordingly.
  • Anthony J. Martin shall be fined €10,000.
  • Anthony J. Martin shall have his Trainers Licence withdrawn for a period of six months. However, such withdrawal of his Licence is hereby suspended for a period of two years from the date of this decision, subject to Mr. Martin not breaching any anti-doping Rules including inter alia Rule 96, Rule 148, Rule 272(i), 273(i) (or howsoever renumbered or revised by any amendment to the IHRB Rules) during this period. Any breach so found will result in the automatic imposition of the six month withdrawal of his Trainers Licence.
  1. The Respondent has a right to appeal this decision to the Appeals Body in accordance with Rule 256.


Amended result:

Dundalk 18 January 2023

View Restaurant At Dundalk Stadium Handicap


First:                   Adamaris

Second:              Getaway Queen

Third:                  Construct (GB)

Fourth:               Grandmaster Flash

Fifth:                   The Jam Man

Sixth:                   Vibrance (GB)



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