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Michael William O’Meara (Trainer) Prohibited Substance Referral – Cork 13th October 2020

The Referrals Committee, Mr. Justice Raymond Groarke, (in the chair), Mr. Peter M. Allen and Mr. N.B. Wachman convened in the Offices of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board on Monday, 5th July 2021 to consider whether or not M.W. O’Meara (Trainer) was in breach of any rules as a result of a report received from LGC Laboratories, Newmarket, England.


The report stated the blood sample taken from Noble Music (GER) following her win in the Cork Handicap on 13thOctober 2020 at Cork 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 requested by Mr. O’Meara and the finding of triamcinolone acetonide was confirmed by Laboratoire des Hippiques in France on 19th November 2020.  


Evidence was heard from Dr. Lynn Hillyer, IHRB Chief Veterinary Officer and Head of Anti-Doping, Mr. Vincent O’Connor, veterinary surgeon and Mr. Patrick Kennedy on behalf of Mr. O’Meara.


In her evidence, Dr. Hillyer outlined the details of the IHRB investigation. LGC confirmed that the blood sample taken from Noble Music (GER) was positive for TCA. 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.


Mr. O’Meara forwarded his Medicines Register which confirmed an entry for the administration of Adcortyl®, a product containing TCA, alongside Amikacin®, an antimicrobial drug, as a joint injection on 23rd September 2020. A further entry in the Medicines Register detailed an injection of Cartrophen® on the 13th October 2020, the day of the race in question. Cartrophen® contains pentosan polysulphate sodium, a pharmacologically active medication with analgesic effects. Dr. Hillyer discussed the matter of the Cartrophen® with Mr. O’Meara, who stated that it had been given on the morning of the race by Jack McCarthy, of Greenmount Equine Hospital.


Donncha Houlihan of Greenmount Equine Hospital subsequently confirmed in a written report that he had medicated the medial femorotibial joint of the left stifle with 10 mg of TCA on 23rd September 2020, which was 19 days prior to the race in Cork.  Elective testing was offered to Mr O’Meara in the event that he wished to be sure that the filly would return a ‘clear’ sample ahead of any future engagements. He did not avail of this option.


Dr. Hillyer concluded that during the investigation of this post-race finding that a potential source of the adverse analytical finding in the post-race result was identified. On consideration of both the dose and time frame, the administration of the relatively low dose of TCA recorded as administered (10 mg) on 23rd September - some 20 days pre-sampling - did not fully explain the finding but it is possible that factors such as joint anatomy, pathology, drug interaction or administration into tissue may have had an effect. The stifle is a complex joint and can be associated with longer excretion times than might be expected, particularly if it is inflamed/has chronic pathology. It is also a possibility that all or some of the TCA was administered inadvertently outside of the intended synovial structure. Another possibility is that the co-administration of the antibiotic has had some bearing. She explained 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.  Alternatively, the horse may have been exposed to a greater dose of TCA than that reported, either at the time of injection or subsequent to the treatment documented on 23rd September 2020.


In her opinion, Dr. Hillyer said that Mr. O’Meara, working with his veterinary surgeon, did not take 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 response to the medication, recovery and repair. It is not sufficient, as set out in Rule 96(a) that the advice of the veterinary surgeon was followed because the advice of an 18-day withdrawal time was inadequate and no attempt was made by the veterinary surgeon to either follow the existing information published by the IHRB or seek specific advice. Furthermore, she added the advice given by another member of the same practice that there is a ‘zero’ withdrawal time associated with the administration of Cartrophen® and administration of same on the morning before the horse raced at Cork was also wholly inadequate, irresponsible and demonstrated a clear lack of knowledge and/or disregard for the rules of racing and/or the welfare of the horse.


Administration of a medication on the morning before the race as identified in the course of the investigation is a breach of Rule 87(vii)(d) with the effect that the horse was not qualified to start. It was the view of the IHRB that the administration of Cartrophen® on the day of the race was also a breach of Rule 148 (i) and (iii) (a) in so much that Mr. O’Meara has failed to take proper responsibility for the welfare of Noble Music through requesting/authorizing the administration of a pain killing drug on the morning of the horse’s race.  By doing this he had fallen short of his responsibilities as a licensed trainer by either not being conversant with the Rules and Regulations in relation to Prohibited Substances or wilfully ignoring them.


In his evidence, Mr. O’Connor stated that he had never treated Noble Music (GER) or ever seen the horse but was giving his opinion that Mr. O’Meara should have been advised by his veterinary surgeon at the time that there was an automatic stand down period of 14 days but that a withdrawal period of 21 days should have been advised given the complexity of the joint. He stated that in his experience, a veterinary surgeon would always advise the Trainer of a withdrawal period before the horse should run in a race as they would not expect the Trainer to be fully knowledgeable in this area.  He said that Cartrophen® was a pain relieving and anti-inflammatory drug which could have the effect of making a horse more comfortable.


Speaking on behalf of Mr. O’Meara, Mr. Kennedy outlined that his client has had a very rude awakening in the area of medicines and was wholly apologetic for the sequence of events. He stated that Cartrophen® was a commonly used medication in horses but on this occasion it was given to the horse 24 hours later than it should have been and Mr. O’Meara fully accepts that. He added that Mr. O’Meara had subsequently changed the veterinary practice which he uses.


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


“The trainer, Mr. O’Meara, prior to running this horse, had the stifle injected with the drug TCA.

He had sought and relied on veterinary advice with regard to the time during which the horse should not run. The trainer followed that advice which he had received. It follows that, given the position the advice received and applied by the trainer from the vet was erroneous.


The trainer is, under Rule 148(i), responsible for the consequences of a breach of the rules and must be penalised accordingly, unless the trainer produces a satisfactory explanation. Rule 96(a) requires that the horse found in breach of the drug concentration level must be disqualified and the stake forfeited. We so order and direct the amendment of the result accordingly.


The result now reads:

First:      Dundory

Second: Lady Hanson

Third:    Ultra Pride

Fourth:  Satin And Silk

Fifth:     Ivy Avenue

Sixth:   Longoddson


Under the same rule, the Trainer must be fined €1,000, however, under the circumstances, the committee will waive the fine given the special circumstances outlined above.


In respect of Mr. O’Meara’s admitted breach of Rule 87(vii)(d) in having the horse injected on the day in which he raced, we find that the breach is inexcusable and under the Rule 19A8(ii) impose a fine of €5,000.”


The case was presented by Ms. Cliodhna Guy, IHRB Head of Licensing, Legal & Compliance and Mr. O’Meara was represented by Mr. Patrick Kennedy, Solicitor, of Patrick J. O’Meara & Co. Solicitors, Thurles.

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