A number of changes have been made to the equine anti-doping rules in the UK, the British Horseracing Authority announced on Wednesday. These changes have been made following a comprehensive review of the sport's anti-doping rules announced in 2018. Individual trainers and the National Trainers Federation were consulted, with additional input from both the UK and World Anti-Doping Agencies and sports bodies such as the FEI. Northridge LLP, a specialist sports law practice, also provided independent legal advice on the rule changes. In summary, the changes, which will go into effect on Sept. 1, are as follows:
- If a horse tests positive for a prohibited substance, in order to avoid a penalty the responsible person must establish the precise source of the positive finding and that they had taken all reasonable precautions
- Cautions are available for lower level breaches
- Suspended sanctions are available for breaches
Tim Naylor, Director of Integrity and Regulation at the BHA, said, “The culmination of this project has followed consultation with the appropriate parties as well as legal advice in relation to the rule changes, and it is our hope that we now have a set of equine anti-doping rules which are clear both for those who enforce them and those who are bound by them.
“We have to ensure that our rules in relation to anti-doping are sufficiently robust, but also that as much as is possible in such a technical area everyone bound by the rules understands what is required of them. Whilst in places the requirements upon the responsible person have been strengthened, there have also been changes to allow more appropriate penalties for lower and mid-level breaches of the rules.
“We have communicated these changes now ahead of their implementation date next month to allow sufficient time for participants to ask any questions they may have prior to the rules taking effect.”
In response to these new changes, the National Trainers Federation released the following statement, which read in part: “Trainers have strict liability for the presence of prohibited substances in a horse's system. In the light of Disciplinary Panel decisions since the cases that led to the BHA's review, the NTF believes the existing equine anti-doping rules provide sufficient encouragement for compliance. In that context, the outcome of the BHA's review into penalties in these cases is a mixed bag for trainers.
“The NTF is pleased that the BHA took on board the need to remove penalties where malicious administration could be proved. However, strict liability reverses the principle of “innocent until proved guilty” by putting the onus on the defendant to prove innocence – in this case by having to prove the precise source of the prohibited substance….
“To mitigate the burden of strict liability, the BHA and NTF have agreed restructured penalties. It is right that the Disciplinary Panel should have the option of cautioning a trainer instead of imposing a financial penalty (as required by the current rules), for the least culpable breaches.
“We disagree with the BHA about the minimum sanction of a suspended disqualification in addition to a financial penalty for the lowest level breach for substances prohibited at all times. If the Panel is satisfied the trainer had no knowledge of the substance's administration and had taken reasonable precautions, a suspended disqualification is an unwarranted stain on the trainer's reputation.”
To read the full NTF statement, click here.