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Court rejects horse trainer’s request to stay suspension for alleged anti-doping rule violation

The High Court has refused horse trainer Tony Martin’s application to suspend the three-month suspension he received from the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) for an alleged anti-doping rule breach.

Judge Rory Mulcahy rejected Mr Martin’s claims about the IHRB’s use of a British lawyer in its appeal against the temporary revocation of his coaching license. The judge refused to allow the Co Meath-based coach to pursue his application for a judicial review to have the suspension overturned.

The stay will take effect immediately, as the judge declined to grant a stay that would have lasted for the duration of the court proceedings or a shorter break while Mr. Martin considered appealing the dismissal.

His suspension was set to take effect on Wednesday this week. However, the IHRB did not object when the matter came before the court on Tuesday regarding Mr Martin’s horses taking part in a race on Wednesday, as the court was due to rule on Thursday.

The suspension is expected to expire around mid-August, meaning Mr Martin, a multiple time winner at the Cheltenham Festival, will have no runners at the Galway festival.

At an initial IHRB hearing last December, Mr Martin was fined €11,000 and given a six-month license suspension, suspended for two years. This happened after “Firstman”, a horse he trains, failed a doping test after winning at Dundalk in January 2023. The horse tested positive for lidocaine, a local anesthetic used to block the pain, which is prohibited on a race day.

Mr Martin and the IHRB appealed the decision. He argued the penalty was too harsh, while the IHRB argued it was too lenient.

An appeal panel chaired by retired High Court President Peter Kelly ruled that a three-month suspension plus a fine would be sufficient.

Mr Martin brought action in the High Court in response to this latest decision. He alleged that the appeal hearing was conducted in a manner inconsistent with the law. His lawyers argued that a lawyer presenting the IHRB case before the appeals board was not qualified to practice in this state, contrary to the rule in the Legal Services Regulation Act of 2015.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Mulcahy dismissed that application and refused his application for leave to seek judicial review. He awarded the IHRB its legal costs relating to defending the claim.