IHRB to launch procurement process for provision of drug-testing services

Current deal with Newmarket-based LGC analytical laboratory ends in December

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board is planning the procurement process for provision of its drug-testing services later this year.

The Newmarket-based LGC analytical laboratory has been carrying out testing for Irish racing since 2019 with its current deal set to finish at the end of this year.

“The procurement process will begin later this year as the LGC contract comes to an end on December 31st ,” an IHRB spokesman confirmed on Friday.

LGC took over testing when the IHRB ended its long-term association with the Limerick-based BHP laboratory that had tested samples for the regulator for over 20 years.


The switch coincided with a subsequent jump in horses failing drug tests.

LGC got caught up in Irish racing’s recent controversies over Jim Bolger’s claims about doping and his expressed lack of faith in the sport’s testing procedures.

Dr Clive Pearce of LGC appeared before a joint-Oireachtas Agriculture committee that took place during the summer on the back of Bolger's claims.

The committee’s subsequent report said testing standards in Irish racing are of the highest possible international standards.

It is understood a new deal will be for two years with an option for an additional two years.

There are a handful of labs around the world that are accredited by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities. LGC is one while others are based in France, Australia, Hong Kong and California.

Earlier this week the IHRB issued its second equine anti-doping report for the second half of 2021. It showed that rates of hair testing on horses more than doubled in that period with 243 hair tests from 1,623 races.

Increased hair-testing was called for by Bolger in 2020, the same year the IHRB began conducting such tests.

Twice yearly anti-doping reports were a recommendation from Horse Racing Ireland in 2021.

An IHRB statement said: “We are guided by the main principle of our Equine Anti-Doping strategy to take the right sample from the right horse at the right time.

“Some substances only show up for a very short period of time, most likely in blood. Others can be deposited in hair and be evidenced over months and years. Others are best confirmed as having been administered to the horse by the detection of metabolites in urine.

“Understanding which matrix to use at which time needs a combination of science, intelligence, and coordination across the different departments.”

On Friday Horse Racing Ireland released its statistical report for 2021 which saw a 14.4 per cent increase in the number of horses in training compared to 2020.

Remarkable resilience

Total ownership was up 20 per cent while bloodstock sales leaped 71.3 per cent on 2020 which was badly affected by the pandemic. Sales were up 10.6 per cent on 2019.

"So many of the figures announced today show a remarkable resilience in the horse racing and breeding industries," said HRI's chief executive Suzanne Eade.

“The figures for the numbers of horses-in-training have jumped by over 14 per cent year-on-year at a time when attendance of owners at race meetings was severely curtailed.

“That support from owners is vital, placing the industry on a secure footing and reflecting favourably on levels of employment across the industry and the wider economic activity that brings.

“Irish Bloodstock sales were hit very badly in 2020 but last year’s sales figures for horses sold at public auctions improved greatly with a succession of sales performing well.

“There was a vibrant trade at the Irish store sales and buyers from 22 countries invested at Irish yearling sales, with Irish-foaled horses sold to 31 countries in all,” she added.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column