Doping and Medical Control within British Horseracing – AWOL 2003-2009?

19 Feb

In June 2009 headline in the Daily Telegraph read as follows:

Nicky Henderson has been fined a record £40,000 and banned from making entries for three months after being found guilty of administering an anti-bleeding drug to the Queen’s horse Moonlit Path at Huntingdon in February.

BHA’s Full Decisions and Reasons can be found here, but initially I want to focus on one section in particular:

Evidence at this Enquiry

12. The main factual evidence came just from Henderson. He had given notice that he intended to call Mr Main, and he also produced a statement signed on 3 June 2009 from him. This statement was also sent direct by Mr Main to the BHA on 3 June, under cover of a letter in which he expressed disagreement with the note compiled by the BHA investigators of his interview on 9 April. (Mr Main had refused to allow this to be recorded at the time). But on 18 June 2009, the BHA was informed by Henderson’s representatives that Mr Main would not be called to give evidence, because he was refusing to come.

13. As will be apparent from the analysis of this case below, it is obvious that Mr Main had some important, perhaps vital evidence to give. The Panel therefore raised with the parties the possibility of adjourning the enquiry to see if Mr Main might respond to invitations to attend from the BHA or even from the Panel direct. Mr Norris QC for Henderson forcefully opposed this course, and Mr McPherson QC for the BHA doubted whether Mr Main might respond to their invitation, because of the earlier dispute with him about the accuracy of the 9 April interview note.

14. The Panel saw an additional possible benefit from an adjournment. This would have allowed evidence to be taken from Tom Symonds, who was also, in the Panel’s view, someone with an important story to tell. But Mr Norris QC’s reaction to that was again to resist any adjournment, because he did not propose to call any evidence from Symonds. The Panel’s eventual decision was not to adjourn, because it was uncertain whether Mr Main would agree to give evidence, even with the “encouragement” he might be given by drawing his attention to Rule 6 of the Rules of Racing. It remained the Panel’s view that Mr Main and Mr Symonds had potentially crucial evidence to give.

So what was this evidence? Well we had to wait for the findings of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon to be published on the 22nd February 2011. Full report can be found here

An extract below from the findings of Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons:

“The Committee has considered very carefully the explanation put forward by Mr Main for the use of the term “pre-race check” on Moonlit Path’s clinical records, and indeed, on the invoice. It has concluded that the use of the term was, in effect, a protocol developed over several years between the practice and Mr Henderson to conceal the administration of tranexamic acid by injection to a horse on a race day.”

So who was James Main? Well he worked within the practice of O’Gorman Slater Main & Partners which has upwards of 25 yards in and around Lambourn on its books. He was member of the following BHA Committees: Counter-Analysis Advisory Committee and Veterinary Committee as well as being a NTF Veterinary Advisor.  Taking this into consideration, this further extract from RCVS findings makes for interesting reading:

“At the outset of the hearing, Mr Main admitted the first head of charge (a) (i) namely that on 19th February 2009, he injected Moonlit Path, which he knew to be racing later that day, with tranexamic acid when he knew that to do so would result in a breach of Instruction C9 and Rule 221B (i) of the BHA rules of racing. He accepted that at the relevant time he was aware of the provisions of Instruction C9 which prohibited any substance being given to a horse at any time on the day of a race whether by an injection, orally or any other method with the exception of normal feed and water by mouth.”

The RCVS concluded the following:

“It has concluded that Mr Main did not know at the time he administered the injection that, if tested, Moonlit Path would prove positive for tranexamic acid. It accepts Mr Main’s oral evidence that he, and other veterinary surgeons at the practice, had administered tranexamic acid to horses on race days at Mr Henderson’s yard over a significant period of time without positive testing.”

So here we have a member of BHA Counter-Analysis Advisory Committee and Veterinary Committee administering illegal race day substances having the confidence in the Medical Control procedure that it would come back as a negative test.  The RCVS even questions the validity of the BHA testing procedures;

“While it is evident from the BHA’s Guidelines that the sensitivity of the tests is in a process of continual development, the Committee is unable to speculate as to why tranexamic acid had not tested positive on horses to which Mr Main had administered it on previous occasions. However, it is satisfied that Mr Main believed at the time he administered the injection that Moonlit Path would not test positive for tranexamic acid.”

Further question marks over the effectiveness of doping control were raised in the recent allegation of milkshaking made against James Boyle. A baseline CO2 test would have enabled accurate conclusions to be drawn but that was deemed “unnecessary” by Paul Scotney, the former Director of Integrity Services, Compliance and Licensing, and Professor Tom Morris, then Director of Equine Science and Welfare.

Both Paul Scotney and Professor Tim Morris have left the British Horse Racing Authority in recent months, during a much needed reconfiguration of the BHA services and structure. Paul Bittar said “We are proud that British Racing is justifiably held in high regard on the subject, but we know there is no room for complacency.”

However, the findings of the RCVS regarding the administration/testing of tranexamic acid and the lack of a fundamental baseline test in a doping case cast serious doubt as to the rigour of BHA’s Doping and Medical Control between 2003 and 2009, and in turn the performances of the thoroughbred throughout that period.


Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Doping and Medical Control within British Horseracing – AWOL 2003-2009?

  1. John Nelligan

    February 24, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Congrats on an excellent piece. Picked up your link from The Observer. Keep up the good work.


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