Newland- Idiotic,Insulting, Incendiary, Interesting and Important.

Dr. Richard Newland’s article with Racingtv was insulting, incendiary, interesting and important. He came across as a Little Englander with a dislike of Johnny Foreigner who automatically assumes that the Irish could not win without cheating (“the Irish ‘advantage'”). The reference to a ‘lack of trust’ in the Irish anti-doping regime makes it clear where he thinks lies the source of that advantage. At no stage does he consider other reasons for the Irish level of success such as better stock sourcing policies, a better funded industry in Ireland, and the benefits that accrue from the need for continuous improvement by trainers in a more competitive racing environment. His ‘solutions’ which included restrictions or banning Irish runners almost seem like a parody.
It would be interesting to know if Newland had direct knowledge of drugs in Irish racing (track or Point to Point). Had he ever purchased horses that he later suspected of having been previously administered drugs?
What is important about his article is that it has reopened the debate on the integrity of racing and put the spotlight back on the drugs issue. He is following in the footsteps of Jim Bolger a man with a very different national outlook, who is the most important trainer to have spoken out on the issue. Richard Newland may have come across as a bit of an idiot but if he helps to bring about an improvement in the integrity of the sport he will have been an important idiot. It is in the interests of the industry on both sides of the Irish sea to restore confidence in the sport and avoid unsubstantiated innuendo against all Irish trainers. Trading insults won’t help but a proper coordinated, well resourced approach to tackling the issue would help.

As part of an article a few years ago (full article at , I wrote about what I believed to be the solution to drugs in racing. That solution is to focus on information and incentives for whistleblowing rather than reliance on tests. An extract from that article is shown below and I believe it is still relevant.


The evidence revealed in the Servis and Navarro cases showed the extent to which designer and undetectable drugs were available in the US. There are the same incentives to cheat in Ireland and the UK. The drugs can be relatively obtained, often cannot be detected so why should anyone believe in Irish (or UK) horse racing exceptionalism?
Over the past decades we have had eGH (equine growth hormone) EPO, cobalt, milkshakes, micro dosing and God knows what else. The cheaters are usually ahead of the regulators and testers. By the time testing is in place for something, the cheaters will have moved on or developed masking techniques. Our regulators are stuck in a misguided belief that by simply doing more tests, they are doing their job. In truth they will most likely just get more negative results as the testing regime is limited in what it can reveal. An alternative approach is needed, based as much on human psychology as pharmacology.

Catching people requires better information and targeting. Unscrupulous vets and some alternative practitioners (such as John Warwick) seem central to some of the cases that have been uncovered. Some actions that should be undertaken include

  1. Target trainers who utilise these vets/practitioners
  2. Look for agreements with the veterinary regulators that would see severe penalties for vets who inappropriately supply equine medications.
  3. Proper Data analysis- Identify telltale signs ,perhaps high levels of horses going for long lay offs/fatalities from a stable/ sudden changes in strike rate or abnormal strike rates.
  4. Introduce a focus on non race day testing in pre-training yards and non-licensed yards
  5. The different forms of doping need different approaches. Doping to lose (nobbling) is relatively rare but can still occur. Hopefully the greatly delayed introduction of cctv in racecourse stables will help with that

All of these changes should help but they won’t be enough.

If you are serious about stopping it, you need much better information and you will have to be prepared to pay for it. Its difficult to see the Gardai in Ireland or the UK police having the powers or resources that allowed the FBI to catch Servis et al. Racing needs to put in place financial incentives to counteract the incentives to cheat. A large bounty (c. 75k+) for each conviction should incentivize some to blow the whistle on what they may know or have witnessed. The culture of omerta might start to crumble. There is rarely honour amongst thieves. It would be the best few million that the sport could spend.

Our testing regime only seems good at catching people who made a mistake over the correct withdrawal period for therapeutic medication. Where our regime falls short is in detecting performance enhancing drugs that are only detectable for a very short window, if at all. It’s worth paying a price to uncover that information, remove the cheats and restore the reputation of the sport.

1 thought on “Newland- Idiotic,Insulting, Incendiary, Interesting and Important.

  1. Nick Luck podcast episode 962 from about 4 minutes. Newland has had horses tested that came from Ireland and as a result of the test results contacted the BHA. He’s not the only one to have done this.

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