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Eugene M. O’Sullivan (Trainer) Prohibited Substance Referral – Downpatrick 8th October 2021

The Referrals Committee, Mr. Justice Tony Hunt (in the chair), Mr. Nicholas Wachman, and Mr. Laurence McFerran convened in the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on Thursday, 26th August 2022 to consider whether or not Mr. Eugene O’Sullivan (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 20th October 2021 stated the blood sample taken from Carnet de Stage following his win in the Randox Health Handicap Chase, was confirmed by LGC Laboratories to contain triamcinolone acetonide (TCA). Under Rule 20(v) and Regulation R14 of the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules triamcinolone acetonide is a prohibited substance.

The option of ‘B’ sample analysis was requested by Mr. O’Sullivan. This was confirmed as an adverse analytical finding for triamcinolone acetonide by LGC Laboratories on 21st December 2021.

Evidence was heard from Mr. O’Sullivan and Dr. Lynn Hillyer, Head of Anti-Doping and Chief Veterinary Officer.

In her evidence, Dr. Hillyer outlined the details of the IHRB investigation. She explained that during the course of the investigation, Mr. O’Sullivan stated that Carnet De Stage had been administered 10mg of TCA on the 26th August 2021 and a veterinary record of this administration was provided from Fethard Equine Hospital which also showed a record that sedation was administered orally (detomidine/butorphanol and xylazine). The TCA was administered intraarticularly and an 18 day withdrawal time was advised by Fethard Equine Hospital. Dr. Hillyer added that this provided a possible source of the adverse analytical finding but that it is extremely unusual and unprecedented in her experience to see an adverse analytical finding arising from a 10mg TCA administration to a simple fetlock joint 42 clear days after that administration.

Dr. Hillyer suggested that possible explanations are that the medication was not administered into the joint but instead into some denser tissue from which its excretion had been prolonged or that the joint was diseased to the extent that excretion was prolonged. She added that other scenarios could have been that the other drugs administered on the same day have interfered with its excretion or that the dose administered was higher than recorded or that there has been exposure to or administration of TCA later than the 26th August 2021 but there was no evidence provided by the trainer for any of those scenarios. Dr. Hillyer added that the presence of TCA in the blood sample taken post-race does reflect the presence of active TCA in the joint administered. Dr. Hillyer also stated that Medicines Register received as part of the investigation was not adequately completed in that it was incorrectly and incompletely filled out with several of the medications documented by Fethard Equine Hospital in their record missing from the Medicines Register as well as no withdrawal time being noted and the date being incorrect.

In his evidence, Mr. O’Sullivan explained that he been training Carnet De Stage since he was a four-year-old and the horse was quite straightforward and had never any issues. He explained that in late August he detected a slight lameness in the horse which didn’t appear serious but required further examination and he brought the horse to Fethard Equine Hospital. Mr. O’Sullivan stated that the intention was for the horse to run at Listowel in late September and he explained that to his vet to make sure that anything which was administered would allow for the horse to run at Listowel. Mr. O’Sullivan said that the advice from the vet was to give the horse rest for four or five days and then start him back slowly which is exactly what he did and Mr. O’Sullivan added that he was well aware of the withdrawal time as he had had this discussion with the vet. Mr. O’Sullivan confirmed that the horse had not been administered anything further following the 26th August and he could not offer any explanation for the adverse analytical finding after 42 days. 

Having considered the evidence, Chairman of the Referrals Committee, Justice Hunt, read out the following decision on behalf of the committee.

“The findings in the sample established a breach of Rule 96(a), for which the trainer is responsible under the provisions of Rule 148(i).  Therefore,  the Committee ordered that the horse be disqualified from the race in question, that the Judges placings be amended accordingly, and that the winning stake be forfeited.

As to the sanction on the trainer, the Committee noted that this was the first breach of this Rule by him in a lengthy career.  In addition, the committee had considered his evidence and found no reason to doubt his credibility or honesty.  The Committee noted that it was bound to deal with the evidence presented and any appropriate inferences from that evidence on the balance of probabilities, and that it could not engage in speculation. 

On that basis, the Committee did not have sufficient evidence either to determine a probable cause for the adverse finding, or to find that Mr O’Sullivan had taken reasonable precautions to avoid that adverse finding. The horse had undoubtedly received a fetlock injection of TCA under veterinary supervision in August and the trainer had apparently followed veterinary advice in running the horse at Listowel in September. However, the expert evidence of Dr. Hillyer indicated that that although there were various other speculative possibilities, the August administration of TCA could not be a probable explanation of the October sample and finding. 

This left a situation where the trainer remained responsible for the adverse finding under the provisions of Rule 148(i).  The Committee noted that Mr Sullivan went to the expense of having the ‘B’ sample analysed in an attempt to vindicate his position. In the circumstances, the Committee imposed a fine of €1,000.  The Committee also found a distinct and separate breach of the obligation to keep a fully accurate Medicines Register under Rule 148(iii), in that the full range of substances administered in August were not reflected in the Register.  The Committee imposed a fine of €250 in this regard.”

The Amended result of the Randox Health Handicap Chase now reads:


First:      Earth’s Furies

Second: Capture The Drama

Third:    Nuttoridge

Fourth:  Cappacon

Fifth:     Ballinasilla


The case was presented by Ms. Cliodhna Guy, IHRB Head of Licensing, Legal & Compliance. Mr. O’Sullivan was represented by Mr. Denis Linehan of Denis A. Linehan and Company Solicitors, Charleville, County Cork.

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