Jim Bolger will be given the opportunity to substantiate claims made about drug cheats in Irish racing at a parliamentary hearing July 6 when the sport’s senior officials will also be quizzed about some of the comments made by the trainer in recent weeks.
Bolger first voiced concern about the issue last October when labeling the use of performance-enhancing substances as the “number one problem” facing the industry and said he knew the identity of the perpetrators. He has reaffirmed his stance in a series of Sunday Independent interviews with Paul Kimmage recently in which he demanded “a level playing pitch” in Irish racing.
When former cyclist Kimmage put it to Bolger that he was “seeing a lot of parallels with pro cycling”, Bolger replied: “Well, there will be a Lance Armstrong in Irish racing.”
Fianna Fail TD Jackie Cahill revealed that given the seriousness of Bolger’s accusations it was unanimously agreed at government level to invite Bolger—along with senior members of Horse Racing Ireland, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, and the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association—to address the issue.
Cahill said: “There was a private meeting of the Oireachtas committee on Monday when we dealt with a request to investigate allegations made by Jim Bolger about drug cheats in horse racing. It was unanimously agreed that there were serious accusations made in the public domain and that we would hold committee meetings to address the situation.
“We agreed to invite Jim Bolger, HRI, the IHRB, the Department of Agriculture, and the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association. We have set July 6 as the date for the meeting and I would imagine, with the amount of people that will be attending, we will require two sessions to get through everybody.
“We would hope to have two two-hour slots on July 6 dealing with these allegations and then we will decide where we go from there.”
Bolger, who landed his 50th group 1 at Royal Ascot last week when Poetic Flare won the St. James’s Palace Stakes (G1), declined to comment on whether he would take up the invitation to attend the hearing when contacted June 22.
However, HRI boss Brian Kavanagh said he would attend if invited while a spokesperson for the IHRB said the regulator would welcome the opportunity to discuss its anti-doping strategies.
Niall Cronin, communications manager at the IHRB, said: “We would welcome the opportunity to meet the deputies and explain details of our equine anti-doping strategies and the advances that have been made in this area recently and over the last few years.”