He Knows No Fear (near): one of 12 horses in which traces of anabolic steroids were found Picture Credit: Patrick McCann
Luke Comer doping case set to rumble on after trainer and regulator lodge appeals against original verdict
David Jennings (Deputy Ireland Editor Racing Post)
The Luke Comer doping case looks nowhere near to being resolved after the trainer and the regulator both lodged appeals against the findings of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s referrals committee to suspend the trainer’s license for three years and hit him with €840,754 in fines and costs.
Comer had stated his intention to contest the verdict of a nine-day hearing after 12 of his horses tested positive for anabolic steroids, and the regulator has made the unusual move of challenging the leniency of the sanctions too.
Comer had until 5pm on Wednesday to lodge an appeal against the findings and Niall Cronin, communications manager for the IRHB, said: “An appeal has been submitted by Mr. Comer against various elements of the decision of the referrals committee.”
Cronin added the regulator would be doing likewise. He said: “Additionally, the IHRB has lodged an appeal under rule 27(i) (b). The grounds for appeal are undue leniency of the sanctions imposed on the trainer in respect of the multiple breaches of rule 96 and the breach of rule 272 which were found by the referrals committee.”
Rule 27 deals with the leniency of a sanction, while rule 96 concerns the adverse analytical findings and rule 272 relates to supplying misleading information or false evidence.
Comer’s representative Andrew Coonan told the Racing Post: “Mr. Comer has given the decision of the referrals committee very careful consideration and, given the nature of the findings, he has decided to appeal against that decision.”
The 12 horses in which traces of methandienone (MD) and methyltestosterone (MT) were found included He Knows No Fear, who won at 300-1 at Leopardstown in 2020.
He Knows No Fear had a hair sample taken from him in the aftermath of the Listed Trigo Stakes at Leopardstown in October 2021, a race in which he finished fourth of 14, and it was found to contain MD and MT. On the back of that, the authorities paid a visit to Comer’s yard the following month and found 11 more horses who also tested positive for the banned substances.
Comer denies that he or any of his staff were involved in doping the dozen horses and he was not charged with a breach of rule 273, which covers anybody who “administers, or attempts to administer, or connives at the administration, to a horse of any prohibited substance”.
Comer, whose Comer Group International is a major sponsor of Irish racing, claimed environmental contamination was the most plausible reason for the findings and argued that hay consumed by his horses may have been contaminated with MD or MT through pig slurry.
However, IHRB chief executive Darragh O’Loughlin said there was no evidence put forward to substantiate the hypothesis that it occurred in the environment.
A date for the appeal has yet to be set.