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John C. McConnell (Trainer) Prohibited Substance Referral – Downpatrick 12th June 2021

The Referrals Committee, Mr. Peter M. Allen (in the chair), Mr. Peter N. Reynolds, and Mr. Laurence McFerran convened in the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on Tuesday, 14th June 2022 to consider whether or not Mr. John McConnell (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 23rd June 2021 stated the urine sample taken from Itsalonglongroad following his win in the Toals Bookmakers Opportunity Handicap Hurdle, 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 declined by Mr. McConnell, who in doing so accepted the results of the analysis of the ‘A’ sample.


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


In her evidence, Dr. Hillyer outlined the details of the IHRB investigation. Dr. Hillyer stated that Mr. McConnell informed her that the horse had received intra-articular medication around 30 days ahead of the race involving both front fetlocks and his Medicines Register would confirm this.  Digital copies of the Medicines Register confirmed an entry for the administration of Adcortyl®, a product containing TCA, to ‘front fetlocks and suspensories’ on 13th May 2021. She added that a total dose of 4 x 1ml was recorded, which would equate to a total dose of 40 mg TCA and she was satisfied that this was the likely source of the adverse analytical finding in the post-race Sample.  She stated that the presence of the TCA recorded as administered at a rate of40 mg on 13th May, some four weeks prior to the race at a concentration above the International Screening Limit (ISL) in urine reflects the presence of active TCA at the sites administered.  She explained that while four weeks might seem long enough as a withdrawal time, this depends on the dose given, exactly where it was given and any pathology at those sites. She added that the fetlock is a simple joint and excretion from it relatively straightforward if there is no chronic injury or disease within it, but excretion is prolonged if there is.  Furthermore, administration to or around more dense structures such as the suspensory ligament can be associated with longer and less predictable excretion times than might be expected, particularly if the area is inflamed/has chronic pathology. 


Dr. Hillyer concluded that the IHRB did not accept that Mr. McConnell had taken all reasonable precautions to avoid this adverse analytical finding because an insufficient period of time was left between administration of the drug and the day of the race to allow the horse adequate time for clearance of the medication. She also added that the IHRB have gone to some lengths to advise veterinary surgeons and trainers of these increased risk factors associated with intra-articular administration of corticosteroids and that, as a consequence, longer withdrawal times must be observed when any of them are involved. 


In his evidence, Mr. McConnell accepted the breach of Rule 96. Mr. McConnell said his vet had treated the suspensory ligaments and fetlocks of Itsalonglongroad following his previous race at Down Royal and that he had allowed a 30 day withdrawal period prior to the run at Downpatrick which ultimately wasn’t long enough. Mr. McConnell said that he was a qualified vet but hasn’t practised in approximately 12 years and leaves all treatments to his own vet. Mr. McConnell acknowledged that the withdrawal time for such treatment is a grey area and he could have requested an elective test following the treatment and prior to running the horse and this is something he will need to strongly consider going forward.


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


“We find Mr. McConnell in breach of Rule 96A and in that regard the horse must be disqualified from the race in question, the result amended accordingly, and the stake must be forfeited. While the substance is a common substance which is frequently administered, there is a recommended withdrawal period but that is a guarded recommendation. Mr. McConnell was aware that the substance had been administered and could have availed of elective testing before the race in question but did not do so. We appreciate that this is Mr. McConnell’s first offence, but the substance did not clear the horse’s system before running. We are satisfied the circumstances of this case are without malice on the part of Mr. McConnell, however in the circumstances we impose a fine of €1,000.”


The Amended result of the Toals Bookmakers Opportunity Handicap Hurdle now reads:


First:      Sweet Sixteen (GER)

Second: Top Line Tommy

Third:    Futurum Regem

Fourth:  Alice O’byrne  

Fifth:     Arctic Sofia


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

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