I have wanted to write a conclusion to the Clonbrien Hero story for some weeks, but bowed to the wishes of Graham and Nicky Holland who wanted the official announcement to come from IGB who produced a disciplinary committee statement this week.
It was two years and eight months ago that Graham Holland’s dog “showed an analytic finding” for the metabolites of cocaine, in the first round of the 2017 Irish Laurels.
I have previously written about the efficacy of cocaine. How long it is effective for, and how long a body takes to produce metabolites.
Unfortunately, there will always be a lot of variables which means it is impossible to say definitively, ‘it is effective for less than two hours’ and ‘it takes upwards of four hours for the body to produce metabolites’.
They might be ‘rounded up figures’ which can be countered with ‘it depends on the individual, on what else they have taken, etc etc’, but it isn’t a bad guide. I would defy anyone to show that cocaine is active after four hours, or that metabolites can be produced in less than three hours.
So let’s get the first thing out of the way. The analytical finding are surely bullet proof!
Clonbrien Hero produced three tests showing infinitesimal levels of a cocaine metabolite – averaging less than one part per billion at Newmarket Horseracing Forensic Laboratory – the number one analytic lab in the world.
How much more precise do you want to be?
The levels were so low that nobody could claim that they could affect performance and could only be present as evidence of contamination – as was eventually acknowledged by the IGB finding.
For most people, justice was finally done, though inevitably there are twisted begrudgers and internet conspiracy theorists who have Graham Holland as some kind of pharmaceutical genius who developed a masking agent to try to cover up his crime.
Trust me – he might be a superb greyhound trainer, and an old friend, but he is no genius.
No only would he have not got caught three times, but he would currently be working for the Russian Athletics Federation who have failed miserably in their attempts at drug cloaking.
I would also question any genius who would ‘dope’ the ante post favourite to win his first round heat of the Laurels when the first four home would all qualify anyway.
Oh yeah – and he got beat! Go to the back of the genius class – loser!
There are so many holes in the whole conspiracy theory. The negative test results between the three positives? And exactly how would you dope a greyhound to produce a finding of less than a part per billion? A very very small spoon?
But I would have a few questions of my own.
Did the dog test positive before and after the Laurels final? Why was he even running in the final if he tested positive in the first round?
Why would the IGB try to make a scapegoat of the industry’s leading trainer on the basis of such flimsy untested evidence?
My personal view is that they were trying to impress SIS with whom they were looking to do a deal for races to the UK betting shops. Look! We are SERIOUS on drugs.
But the emotional damage and stress to the Holland household has been immense. They were labeled across the Irish media, and in the UK racing press, as doping cheats. They weren’t the only costs.
In an attempt to clear their name, the Hollands sought a judicial review case in the High Court. They brought it because the IGB had refused to divulge the levels with which they were being charged. In the UK, that would itself invalidate the case being ‘contrary to natural justice’
As the case was heard, it emerged that Holland’s legal team had been given the info a few days earlier. Net cost around €40K.
There is so much more that the Holland’s have asked me not to rake up. But you can work it out yourself, this stuff is all in the public domain. The problems were never in the testing but in the handling of the case by the Irish Greyhound Board.
I also wrote recently about the increased understanding of GBGB into drug levels, based on shared intelligence with the Victorian racing authorities and in which the Irish Greyhound Board are now engaged.
Hopefully that more enlightened and educated thinking will permeate through to less bizarre decision making. I have no doubt that given greater understanding, the IGB would no longer act on such a minute trace of this particular banned substance, which is now acknowledged as a widespread issue within society on both sides of the Irish Sea.
In fact, but for one high placed individual within the Board, who could see the bigger picture, this could have got so much worse.
I would not have been so forgiving. I would have appointed Dublin’s biggest firm of ‘claim solicitors’ on a ‘no foal, no fee’ basis and taken the IGB for hundreds of thousands of Euros.
Instead the Hollands just want to get on with their lives.
As for owner Kay Murphy and her brilliant hound, how badly were they treated? In 2017 Clonbrien Hero won the Irish Laurels, St Leger (when he was drug tested seven times in 10 days) and the Night of Stars 550.
Did the IGB constructed cloud cost him the Greyhound of the Year title and possibly a significant stud career?
It is a sick and sorry tale from which the IGB emerges – after dragging the whole thing out for two and a half years – with zero credit.