Doping in racing: Jessica Harrington saddened by suspicion of drugs cheats after Jim Bolger's claims

Jim Bolger has said he knows the identity of some of Irish racing's doping cheats and that there will be a 'Lance Armstrong in racing'; Jessica Harrington: "Every time any trainer has a winner there is a sort of suspicion now."

Jessica Harrington pictured during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival at the Curragh
Image: Jessica Harrington pictured during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival at the Curragh

Prominent Irish trainer Jessica Harrington has voiced her sadness that the public may believe horses are being drugged in Irish racing.

Harrington, among the all-time greats of the Irish ranks under both codes, has also called for "very, very severe" punishments if any of her colleagues are found to be drugging horses.

Speaking to Ruby Walsh on RTE Racing, the Classic and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer was responding to this month's claims from Jim Bolger that a 'Lance Armstrong' will be uncovered in Irish racing.

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Top Flat trainer Bolger has been invited before a parliamentary hearing early next month to substantiate his claims, together with officials from Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB).

Harrington said: "It just makes me sad that people think that horses are drugged, and trainers are drugging horses.

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Jim Bolger believes the issue of drugs cheats in Irish racing means there is not a 'level playing field'

"As far as I'm concerned, catch the people that are doing it if they are doing it, and punish them very, very severely - because they are damaging the rest of our sport.

"Every time any trainer has a winner there is a sort of suspicion now 'was there drugs in that horse?'."

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Journalist Paul Kimmage says Bolger is 'credible' after the trainer claimed to know the identity of doping cheats in Irish racing

County Kildare-based Harrington spelled out that she would welcome the authorities to test all horses in her care.

"If I have a winner people might ask 'is there drugs?' - but I do not give my horses drugs. I've been training now 35 years and I've always been straight and honest, an open book if they want to come here and test.

"I think testing is very important, and maybe there should be more - but every single winner in Ireland is tested, and there are a certain amount of random tests.

"As I'm a licensed trainer, they can come into my yard and test at any time and search the yard.

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"I hope there isn't (an issue in Irish racing) - but in every sport, there are people using drugs and trying to get the better of the system.

"All I can do is put my hand on my heart and say 'I don't do it'.

"They are testing to a high standard. 'Is it high enough?' - I don't know, that's up to the regulators here to have it to a high standard."

The IHRB has underlined its commitment to "the highest standards of integrity within Irish racing" and a "zero-tolerance approach to doping".

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