Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

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Mr. Luke McGuinness (Rider) – Application to review suspension

The Referrals Committee, Mr. Justice Tony Hunt (in the chair), Ms. Justice Leonie Reynolds and Mr. Anthony Byrne convened via Zoom on Monday, 13th December 2021 to consider an application from Mr. Luke McGuinness (Rider) to review the suspension imposed on him at a Referral Hearing on 28th October 2020.

At that hearing, the Referrals Committee found Mr. McGuinness in breach of Rule 277(i) in that samples of urine taken from him during in competition testing at East Down (F) Tyrella Point to Point on 25th January 2020 was found to contain Benzoylecgonine (metabolite of cocaine). They imposed a penalty of six years suspension of his licence but due to a number of mitigating factors and commitments shown during residential treatment, the committee stated they would consider an application to suspend the penalty from 22nd December 2021 should he comply with strict terms and conditions.

At the Referral Hearing to consider his application, evidence was heard from Mr. McGuinness and Dr. Jennifer Pugh, IHRB Senior Medical Officer and the committee considered correspondence from Mr. Patrick Brennan, Addiction Counsellor, Mr. Gordon Elliott, Trainer, and Mr. Nigel Slevin, Trainer.  

In his evidence, Mr. McGuinness outlined the last 12 months of his recovery and told the panel that he had been in constant communication with Dr. Pugh and was available for any requirements she had of him during that time and will continue to do so. He stated that he had been in constant employment during that period and continues to work with Mr. Elliott and Mr. Slevin who have been very supportive of him and that this work had given him a major focus and that his mindset had totally changed to really enjoying his work. Mr. McGuinness stated that he had used this time to work on himself as an athlete but also as a person and felt a return to race riding would be a further help to him and that, if afforded the opportunity, he was determined to make the most of it as he had wasted the last three or four years of his career and now he just wanted to make the most of his life.

In her evidence, Dr. Pugh outlined the constant engagement she had with Mr. McGuinness and described him as positively unrecognisable over the last 12 months or so. She stated that Mr. McGuinness had undergone a number of unannounced tests at various different stages of his suspension, all of which returned negative. She confirmed that he never missed a test and that this testing would continue.

Having considered the evidence, the decision read out by Mr. Justice Tony Hunt on behalf of the panel read:

“We have considered all the evidence and the submissions put before us and listened to you and paid close attention to what Dr. Pugh has told us and it is clear you have done very well in terms of everything that has been required of you. In the circumstances and because you have opportunities with Mr. Slevin and Mr. Elliott, who both need to be highly complimented on their approach, we are going to permit you to take out a licence again from 22nd December, if granted by the licensing committee. The six years suspension will be suspended for a period of six years with the condition being that you stay under the supervision of the IHRB Senior Medical Officer and comply with any directions by the IHRB Senior Medical Officer.”

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


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