Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Integrity Portal

P.F. O’Donnell (Trainer) Prohibited Substance Referral – Listowel 19th September 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. P.F. O’Donnell (Trainer) was in breach of any rules of racing as a result of a report received from LGC Laboratories, Newmarket, England and following on from an unannounced inspection of Mr. O’Donnell’s licensed premises on 5th October 2021.


The report received on 1st October 2021 stated the blood sample taken from Johnny Cigar following his win in the Kerry Group (Pro-Am) INH Flat Race, was confirmed by LGC Laboratories to contain omeprazole. Under Rule 20(v) and Regulation R14 of the Rules of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules omeprazole is a prohibited substance.


The option of ‘B’ sample analysis was declined by Mr. O’Donnell, who in doing so accepted the results of the analysis of the ‘A’ sample.


Evidence was heard from Mr. O’Donnell 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 omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor commonly used in the treatment and prophylaxis of gastric ulceration, usually as an oral medication. There are several products licensed for use in the horse in Ireland. She added that omeprazole is a prohibited substance on race day under the Rules because it has an effect on a body system, but it is controlled via an International Screening Limit linked with a Detection Time in order that only samples containing clinically significant concentrations of the medication are returned as adverse findings.  A published Detection Time of 48 hours for omeprazole when it is administered as the following product and dose was published in 2019, ‘Omeprazole Gastrogard®37% oral Paste Merial 1mg/kg for 28 days, once daily Oral’.  Dr. Hillyer added that it is for a trainer, taking advice from their veterinary surgeon, to determine an appropriate Withdrawal Time from the published Detection Time taking into account individual circumstances on the yard and added that there is considerable advice available about this both on the IHRB and other websites, plus support available via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Dr. Hillyer confirmed that the IHRB conducted an unannounced inspection of Mr O’Donnell’s’ licensed premises on 5th October 2021 to investigate the finding. At the inspection, the Medicines Register pages for Johnny Cigar contained an entry for ‘1/3 tube of Gastrogard® administered on 18th September, the day before the race.  Dr. Hillyer stated that it was the view of the IHRB that Mr O’Donnell had not taken all reasonable precautions as set out in Rule 96(a) to avoid this adverse analytical finding as an inadequate Withdrawal Time was observed. She added that the Detection Time advice for this substance has been available since 2019 and sources of information publicised by the IHRB. Furthermore, Mr. O’Donnell had been observed riding out without a body protector during the inspection on 5th October 2021.


In his evidence, Mr. O’Donnell stated that he had no justifiable excuse for not wearing a body protector on the day of the inspection and accepted the breach of this rule. In relation to the post-race analysis finding for Johnny Cigar, Mr. O’Donnell stated that he again had to hold his hands up in this regard. He said that he had no previous record in 31 years as a trainer and was very appreciative to the owner of Johnny Cigar for his understanding in this matter. Mr. O’Donnell said that he was misguided unintentionally due to a clerical misunderstanding. He informed the panel that Johnny Cigar had been diagnosed for a stomach ulcer the previous season which was treated. On returning to training and during his increased workload prior to the race at Listowel, Mr. O’Donnell informed the panel that he had allowed his vet to put Johnny Cigar on a low dosage level as a preventative measure on the lead into the race. Mr. O’Donnell stated that he had always been attentive to withdrawal times and has at times contacted manufacturers regarding same. Mr. O’Donnell confirmed that he was working off a withdrawal period of 24 hours for Gastrogard but he has since learned that this was the Department of Agriculture Food Chain rules and not in-competition rules as per the IHRB. He accepted that ignorance of the law was no excuse but he said that he was following the wrong rules.


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


“We find Mr. O’Donnell 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. The substance in question is commonly used for treatment in horses. This horse had been diagnosed as suffering from a condition and was being treated accordingly. The administration of the substance was for welfare purposes but it does have a withdrawal period which is necessary before racing. Due to a misunderstanding regarding the withdrawal period, the drug was administered within a 48 hour period of the race and that resulted in the positive findings. Mr. O’Donnell has accepted the findings and it is the view of the committee that the administration was without malice. However, in the circumstances, a fine must be imposed and we impose a fine of €1,000. We also find Mr. O’Donnell to be in breach of Rule 148(v)(b) in that he failed to wear a body protector while riding out and we fine him €200 in that regard.”


The Amended result of the Kerry Group (Pro-Am) INH Flat Race now reads:


First:      Tempo Chapter Two

Second: Diamondinthemud

Third:    Kingston Retreat  (GB)

Fourth:  Beeverstown Bullet

Fifth:     Gekkota (FR)


The case was presented by Mr. Michael Daly, IHRB Legal Regulatory Advisor.

Copyright © 2018, I.H.R.B, All Rights Reserved.