A new programme of random dope testing at national competitions will start in Irish horse sport from 1 April.

The new regulations were passed at a board meeting of Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) on 3 February.

“Unfortunately, the reputation of the Irish equestrian sector has been tarnished in the past,” said Joe Walsh of HSI.

“We need to show we have a no-nonsense approach to the use of prohibited substances.”

The late Dr Gordon Holmes recommended introducing a national anti-doping programme in his report after showjumper Denis Lynch broke doping rules at the Beijing Olympics.

Dr Holmes discussed “a lax culture in the sector in relation to prohibited substances and practices”.

Horses are already tested by the FEI when competing in international competitions, but now a “consistent and robust” national testing programmewill be introduced.

Riders whose horses are found to contain a “controlled medication” (legitimate but not allowed in competition) face a suspension of up to six months and a fine of up to €500 (£419).

The discover of “banned substances” will incur a fine of up to €2,500 and possible suspension of up to two years.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (16 February 2012)