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G. Ahern (Trainer) Prohibited Substance Referral – Tramore 1st January 2021

The Referrals Committee, Ms. Justice Leonie Reynolds (in the chair), Mr. Finbar Cahill, and Mr. Anthony Byrne convened in the Hilton Hotel, Charlemont, Dublin on Monday, 28th March 2022 to consider whether or not Garrett Ahern (Trainer) was in breach of any rules of racing as a result of a report received from LGC Laboratories, Newmarket, England.


The report stated the blood sample taken from Whoyakodding (GB) following his win in the Tom Carroll Memorial Handicap Steeplechase on 1st January 2021 at Tramore Racecourse, was confirmed by LGC Laboratories (LGC) 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 declined with Mr Ahern accepting the result of the ‘A’ Sample.


Evidence was heard from Mr. Ahern and the panel also considered the investigation report of Dr. Lynn Hillyer, Head of Anti-Doping and Chief Veterinary Officer.


The investigation report of Dr. Hillyer outlined the details of the IHRB investigation. TCA is a corticosteroid anti-inflammatory medication commonly used in equine practice. It has effective anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties and so is often used to treat joint inflammation, sometimes in combination with other medications. It is usually administered intra-articularly (into a joint). There is no published Detection Time for TCA because the doses and sites which may be treated with it are very variable, but a minimum stand-down time of 14 days must be given after any intra-articular administration of a corticosteroid under Rule 87. As a potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic drug, TCA is a prohibited substance on race day under Rule 20(v) Regulation 14 of the Rules of Racing and INHS Rules.


When notified of the adverse analytical finding, Mr. Ahern stated that the horse had been treated with Adcortyl®, a product containing TCA, some 21 days before the race at Tramore. The medication was reported as injected into both stifles at a dose of 15 mg. Dr. Hillyer confirmed this was the likely source of the adverse analytical finding and added that the stifle is a complex joint which can be associated with longer excretion times than might be expected, particularly if it is inflamed or has chronic pathology.


Elective testing was offered to Mr. Ahern in the event that he wished to be sure that the gelding had returned a ‘clear’ sample ahead of any future engagements. This was availed of with results confirming the presence of decreasing concentrations of TCA on 15th February 2021 and 3rd March 2021, which gave sufficient confidence that the horse was able to run on 14th  March.


Dr. Hillyer added that Mr. Ahern cooperated at all times and was very professional throughout the investigation but the recommended 21 days between administration and raceday, advised by his veterinary surgeon was, in this case, insufficient time.


In his evidence, Mr. Ahern stated that prior to this he was somewhat uneducated about the complexities involved in the substance being administered into a joint and that it could still be in his system after the 21 days advised. He added that had he been given such a warning by his vet that he would have taken an elective test prior to running the horse but that ultimately it was his responsibility as the licenced trainer.


Having considered the evidence, Justice Reynolds read out the following decision on behalf of the committee.


“We have considered the evidence and the circumstances of the case. Mr. Ahern accepts that the banned substance, namely TCA, was present in the samples taken from Whoyakodding on 1st January 2021 at Tramore and consequently he is in breach of Rule 96(a) of the rules of racing. The horse was administered Adcortyl, a product containing TCA, some 21 days prior to the race and Mr. Ahern took the advice of his veterinary surgeon in leaving the 21 days between the administration and the day of the race but this was unfortunately insufficient. Thereafter he cooperated fully with Dr. Hillyer and provided elective sampling on separate occasions. Dr. Hillyer has opined that due to the complex nature of the joint region injected that this prolonged the drugs excretion time. In terms of sanction, we are satisfied that Mr. Ahern cooperated fully and that he did everything to ensure that the horse retained a clear sample ahead of any future engagements. In the circumstances and looking at sanction for this breach, we have looked at Rule 96(a) and we propose to make the order that the horse be disqualified from the race in question and the stake be forfeited as is appropriate in the circumstances.


In the circumstances we are obliged to impose a fine of not less than €1,000. We have considered the further part of the rule that the committee may waive the fine if the committee is satisfied that the prohibited substance is administered unknowingly and that the trainer had taken all reasonable precautions to avoid a breach of this rule. Having considered that, and the IHRB’s position in relation to that rule, it appears to us that the justice of the situation requires that the fine will be waived where Mr. Ahern has left 21 days before the horse ran in Tramore.”


The result now reads:

First:      Turndownthevolume

Second: Flynsini

Third:    Goulane Jessie

Fourth:  Mullaghmurphy Blue

Fifth:     Cadawill


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

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