The IHRB, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, have announced that they are to increase the number of drugs tests carried on jockeys as they move to stamp out usage in the sport.
Specifically, cocaine use seems to be of major concern for the board with all 13 of the latest failed tests being down to the recreational drug. Those failed tests spanned four years with five of those positives found during the course of 2018.
Ireland already has some of the strictest maximum punishments for those found to have failed tests for the use of cocaine, with a ban of up to five years introduced in January of this year.
The latest changes will see drugs testing widened to provide a further deterrent to those taking or considering taking performance impairing drugs including cocaine, alcohol and cannabis.
Currently, testing is carried out on a maximum of ten jockeys per meeting, with 31 meetings covered during 2018. With cocaine detectable in a user’s system for four days, the IHRB will be looking to target more midweek fixtures in particular in an attempt to dissuade jockeys from taking banned substances over weekends or at any point.
Chief medical officer Dr Jennifer Pugh has said:
“There needs to be a greater deterrent and, if we increase the number of tests when we visit a racecourse, it could act as a deterrent.
My role is to try and pick up the pieces in the aftermath of a positive test result and, believe me, it is an absolute nightmare for those who are caught.”
How Do the Measures Compare to Other Sports
Drug use in sport, be it recreational or performance enhancing, never seems to be far from the news of late. The World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA, lists cocaine as a stimulant which is banned in-competition. As we’ve mentioned however, traces of the drug can be detectable for days afterwards so could still lead to an in-competition failure for a significant period of time.
Britain’s own horse racing board, the BHA, has a far more lenient 6 month ban in place for failed tests containing performance impairing drugs like cocaine and alcohol. There have been a string on recent bans in the UK, the latest being William Carson who followed Kieran Shoemark, Callum Rodriguez, Kevin Lundie and the Amateur Peter Bryan who have all been served suspensions in the last year.
Rugby League has also seen a spate of bans handed out to players. Last month, League 1 side West Wales Raiders’ player Morgan Jefferies was hit with a four year ban following the discovery of two banned substances in a sample given following a match played in February of this year.
Only in January, Thomas Minns, former centre for Super League side Hull KR, received a 16 month ban after returning positive for cocaine use. This was only days before the return to the sport of former Man of Steel Zak Hardaker, who received a similar punishment for the same drug when playing for Castleford Tigers. Hardaker missed the 2017 Grand Final as a result as well as the World Cup which followed.
Professional football is also not without its issues with the drug. In February Peterborough United terminated the contract of defender Josh Yorweth after he received a four year ban from the Football Association after being found to have taken cocaine and purposely avoided an anti-doping test.