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John Patrick Ryan (Trainer) Prohibited Substance Referral – Roscommon 24th June 2020

The Referrals Committee, Justice Tony Hunt, (in the chair), Mr. Peter M. Allen and Mr. Peter N. Reynolds convened at the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), The Curragh, Co Kildare on 4th August 2020 to consider whether or not John Patrick Ryan (Trainer) was in breach of any rules as a result of a report received from LGC Laboratories, Fordham, UK.

The report stated that the urine and blood samples taken from Bonarc (IRE) following her win in Tulsk Mares Maiden Hurdle at Roscommon on 24th June 2020, was found to contain O-desmethylvenlafaxine. Under Rule 20 (v) and Regulation R14 of the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules O-desmethylvenlafaxine is a prohibited substance.

The trainer declined the option to have the B sample analysed.

Evidence was heard from Dr. Lynn Hillyer, IHRB Chief Veterinary Officer and Head of Anti-Doping, Mr. John Ryan and Mr. Tom Wafer, representing the Mules & Tools Racing Syndicate.

In her evidence, Dr. Hillyer summarised the investigation into the adverse analytical finding. She confirmed that venlafaxine is a human antidepressant. She stated that Mr. Ryan could not initially offer an explanation as to why the mare may have had the substance in her system. Following further enquiries made under the conditions of medical confidentiality, the IHRB was able to confirm to Mr. Ryan that they believed that a source of the substance had been identified with sufficient contact with the mare to explain the findings.

In his evidence, Mr. Ryan admitted that the notification of an adverse analytical finding had come as a great shock to him. He provided details of the lay-out of his yard and also provided information of how his operation works with regular staff and occasional work-riders. Furthermore, Mr. Ryan stressed his gratitude to Dr. Hillyer for her investigation of the case and confirmed that it was his understanding that the most likely cause of the finding was exposure to a human having been prescribed the medication. Mr. Ryan added that he had taken measures to prevent such an incident occurring again and supplied the panel with photographic evidence of new signage placed throughout his yard to encourage best practice in reducing stable contamination.

Addressing the panel on behalf of the owners, Mules & Tools Racing Syndicate, Mr. Wafer outlined the history of the syndicate and how it operated. He expressed his disappointment at the potential loss to the syndicate should Bonarc be disqualified for a substance that, in his opinion, had no performance enhancing qualities and where the exposure had been due to a third party.

Having considered the evidence, the Committee were satisfied that there was a breach of Rule 96(a) as a prohibited substance was present in the sample taken from the horse. They disqualified Bonarc (IRE), ordered that the stake be forfeited and amended the result to read as follows:

First:        She Tops The Lot (IRE) 

Second:   Vocal Queen (IRE)

Third:       Cornakill Rose (IRE)

Fourth:    Doonbeg Glory (IRE) 

Fifth:        Yeah Babe (GB)

Sixth:       Faerie Laws (IRE)       

The Committee also imposed a €1,000 fine on Mr. Ryan, however waived it under Rule 96(a) as they were of the opinion that the evidence indicated this to be an accidental exposure which was not in any way deliberately brought about by Mr. Ryan or any member of the Mules & Tools Syndicate and therefore they extended the benefit of the doubt. They also awarded costs of €500 to the IHRB and strongly reminded Trainers of their responsibilities in relation to the actions of any permanent or casual staff while on their premises which may lead to a similar unfortunate situation. They noted that it was a matter for the Trainers to take the appropriate precautions and that educational material was available about this on the IHRB  website.

The case was presented by Cliodhna Guy, Head of Legal, Licensing & Compliance. Mr. Ryan and the Mules & Tools Syndicate were represented by Patrick Kennedy of Patrick J. O’Meara & Co. Solicitors, Liberty Square, Thurles, Co Tipperary.


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