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Does Irish horseracing have a problem with doping? | Ger Lyons gives his take

Horseracing trainer Ger Lyons said that he supports Jim Bolger's calls for tighter regulation of ...

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

21:30 14 Jun 2021



Racing

Does Irish horseracing have a problem with doping? | Ger Lyons gives his take

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

21:30 14 Jun 2021

Horseracing trainer Ger Lyons said that he supports Jim Bolger's calls for tighter regulation of doping in racing, as Bolger's comments ripple through the sport.

Bolger is on record as calling the issue of the doping the 'number one problem' in racing, and was critical of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) for their handling of recent cases. 

"My demand is for a level playing field," Bolger said. "They know what that means.

"A certain amount has been done with regards to legislation and hopefully they will be able to use that and use it very effectively.

"They may not have had the personnel to police it as closely as it should have been policed.

"Also, I'd have a concern that every case that was detected over the years wasn't pursued fully. That presents a problem for me."

Ger Lyons on Bolger

Lyons says he agrees with '90%' of what Bolger had to say about the situation, and is perturbed by the idea that authorities are not acting swiftly enough.

As to whether he would be happy for his horses to be inspected, Lyons said he has a good relationship with the IHRB.

"I would say once a year [we're tested], they are welcome to come in anytime they like. I have nothing to hide and we run a good ship.

"We get compliments from the IHRB  when they come and visit us."

Lyons said that testing in and of itself needed to be complemented by a better understanding of what they are looking for, lest cheats stay ahead of the testing systems.

"It is one thing testing.  If you want to test and your limit is, say, 200 athletes or horses a year.  If they go into a place like Ger Lyons' stables, test 200 horses, then they are going to come up clean. It depends what you are testing for.

"It is like statistics, stats are what you make of them. You can make them sound great to make you sound great. But we all have to be on the same page, it has to be zero tolerance."

Stringent defamation laws in Ireland may also have had a chilling effect on what can be said in public about potential transgressors.

"You can't just stand out here and name names unless you have proof, because you'd be in the High Court. That is not my job, it shouldn't be Jim's job, and we should have 100% confidence in the authorities to do their job.

"If Jim knows then I'm hoping the authorities know. If they know, then it would be a shame if they knew and weren't acting on their information. That is what worries me, and what I take away from the story."

'Chicken in the sand'

Lyons said that he was unsure as to those who might be taking part in illicit practices.

"I couldn't know. I'll be honest with you, I'm a bit like the chicken putting my head in the sand because what I don't know won't hurt me. I don't go racing anymore with COVID on, I have my own life to live and I don't want to be in turmoil worrying about everybody else.

"I came into this sport and I remember I was in a mad rush trying to rise through the ranks, saying that I want this sport better for me being in it. That is the reason I took this phone call. I don't want you, your programme or anybody else saying I'm hiding, that I'm too busy going to Ascot. When I was asked by your producer, I said that I would talk to you because I have nothing to hide.

"When somebody such as Jim Bolger says this, I'm worried. But I'm more worried if the authorities aren't listening to him and haven't done anything since October."

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