Bord na gCon serious questions to answer in terms of greyhound management and alleged doping.

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Agriculture/Animal Welfare, Dáil Issues, Parliamentary Questions

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide details of the recent loan of €250,000 granted by Bord na gCon to a company (details supplied) in County Tipperary particularly in view of reported debts on the part of both the board and the company receiving the loan, and reports of the company’s inability to pay Bord na gCon’s race entry fees; if he will provide details on the decision making process as regards the granting of this loan; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Clare Daly.

REPLY

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine : (Simon Coveney)

Bord na gCon has statutory responsibility under the Greyhound Industry Acts 1958 and 1993 for the control, development and improvement of the greyhound racing industry.

The issue to which the Deputy refers is an operational matter for Bord na gCon. That organisation is specifically empowered under Section 16 (1) of the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, to provide loans for the “improvement of greyhound race tracks, authorised coursing grounds and the amenities thereof” and for “any other purpose conducive to the improvement and development of the industry”.

I am informed by BNG that financial support in the form of a trading facility in the amount of €250,000, was made available by it to the company referred to by the Deputy. This facility was intended to assist the company concerned with the completion of a project with the objective of furthering the development and promotion of greyhound racing.

I am advised that the decision to provide this facility was submitted for approval to the Board of Bord na gCon, and made after due consideration, in the best interests of greyhound racing.

I understand that this facility is part of a continuing trading relationship between Bord na gCon and the company concerned. While the terms of the facility are commercially sensitive, I am advised by Bord na gCon that the sum involved is repayable in full.

Bord na gCon’s income is derived from two sources, turnover from racing facilities and financial support provided by my Department from the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund, under Section 12 of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001. State funding provided from the Fund is pivotal to the survival and continued development of the horse and greyhound racing industries. In accordance with the provisions of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001, the level of financial support provided to Bord na gCon by my Department is approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Bord na gCon estimate that the greyhound industry employs over 10,300 people and contributes an estimated €500 million in economic output to local economies around the tracks which have a wide geographic spread.

Bord na gCon report that since 2002 over 10 million people have attended greyhound racing meetings.

The funding being provided to the greyhound racing sector helps sustain a long standing tradition as the industry is part of the social fabric of our country. This funding underpins the economic activity in what are in many instances, less affluent regions of the country. It has also contributed significantly to the improved facilities now available at greyhound tracks around Ireland.

The Deputy will be aware that my Department published the report compiled by Indecon independent consultants following their study of certain matters relating to Bord na gCon in July 2014. In its report Indecon, inter alia, identified serious financial challenges facing Bord na gCon. In their reply to the Indecon report Bord na gCon have outlined a number of measures to address these matters including the disposal of assets, calibration of races at poorly performing stadia, maximizing income from wagering, sponsorship and possible opportunities for generating additional income streams at stadia.

I am confident that Bord na gCon’s commitment to the implementation of the recommendations of the Indecon Report will significantly improve its overall financial standing and contribute to the overall development of this very important sector.

Parliamentary Question No. 151

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 256 of 27 January 2015, if he is satisfied with the current standards of drug testing in the greyhound industry, in view of his comments that no confirmed cases of stanozolol have been reported in Bord na gCon samples to date despite reported widespread use of this drug in the industry; if he will provide details on the process of testing for this drug; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.

REPLY

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine : (Simon Coveney)

Bord na gCon is the statutory body responsible for the regulation of greyhound racing under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 . It has specific powers conferred on it by the Greyhound Industry (Racing) Regulations 2007 , S.I. 302 2007, which set out the detailed rules under which greyhound racing is conducted.

Bord na gCon has informed my Department that more than 6,000 samples were taken from greyhounds that competed at licensed stadia in 2014, for the purpose of detecting prohibited substances. To date 31 samples have been returned as positive, with four samples awaiting final confirmation.

Bord na gCon has stated that all samples analysed are subjected to a range of tests to detect a variety of performances enhancing stimulants, substances that act as “stoppers”, substances such as Anabolic Steroids (Nandoral and Stanozolol) as well as controlled substances such as EPO and cocaine.

I am informed by Bord na gCon that anabolic steroids such as Stanozolol have been controlled substances for male greyhounds since 1 st May 2007 and for females since 1 st October 2014. Bord na gCon has indicated that since the implementation of these provisions, there have been no confirmed cases of Stanozolol reported in samples taken on its behalf.

In the past year Bord na gCon has significantly augmented its regulatory function with the appointment of a Director of Racing Governance and Compliance. Bord na gCon reports that since this appointment, it has undertaken a considerable review of all regulatory functions with a view to achieving the highest standards in greyhound racing integrity.

Standard Operating Procedures for all areas of regulation are being reviewed and revised with a view to improving regulatory effectiveness and withstanding any subsequent challenge. Bord na gCon notes that within the past year, sample testing at trials and in-competition testing within heats has commenced as it has moved to an “intelligence led” approach to deliver more effective testing.

A new regulatory “Resource Centre” has been established on the Bord na gCon website where industry participants can apprise themselves of all developments and requirements concerning greyhound welfare, anti-doping and medication control, rules and guides, reports and statistics and licensing arrangements.

Bord na gCon has also recently completed a public consultation on proposed regulatory reform. In addition, it has launched a Review into Anti-Doping and Medication Control, which is being led by Professor Tim Morris (School of Veterinary Medicine & Science, University of Nottingham), with a view to advising it on any strengthening of regulatory systems that might be required, including in relation to sampling and testing for doping and medication.

This review, which is on-going, will make recommendations which I expect Bord na gCon to take into account in determining whether any amendments are required to legislation, practices or policies, to ensure both the advancement of the Board’s commitment to the welfare of the greyhound and to underpin the integrity of the Irish greyhound industry.

In addition my Department is reviewing current legislation with a view to identifying any changes required to give effect to the recommendations contained in the Indecon report into Bord na gCon.

It is clearly in the best interests of the greyhound sector to ensure that its integrity systems are robust, and kept under review, in order to maintain effectiveness in line with evolving practices and technologies. The Indecon report has made a number of recommendations in relation to the processes around the control of prohibited substances. I am satisfied that Bord na gCon’s commitment to its implementation, together with the review currently underway, will ensure that the regime for the control of prohibited substances operates to the very best international standards.