MARK Johnston has criticised Jim Bolger for making “damaging accusations without, it seems, any corroborating evidence” on the subject of the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in Irish racing.
Johnston, who is the most successful trainer of all-time in British racing in terms of number of winners trained, also said he was “saddened” by what he perceived as the overreaction to the discovery of unlicensed drugs at a premises in Monasterevin, Co Kildare, in November.
Writing in the latest edition of Kingsley Klarion, his own monthly newsletter, Johnston said: “I have heard various descriptions of the substances confiscated from the ‘therapist’ John Warwick but, unfortunately, nobody has given us any details whatsoever about these substances or what they were being used for.
“I would guess that the most accurate description I have heard was that they were ‘animal medicines not licensed for use in Ireland’. If that is an accurate description it does not mean, or even suggest, that they were illegal drugs. Quite the contrary: it suggests that they were medicines normally used in the treatment of animals but not, for whatever reason, licensed for use in Ireland. It could be as simple as a manufacturer having no market for the product in Ireland and not having sought a licence.”
Johnston believes that media coverage of the Monasterevin raid has added fuel to unsubstantiated rumours that there is widespread doping of racehorses taking place.
“What saddens me most of all is that the incident is being used to give credence to Jim Bolger’s claim that illegal drug use is Irish racing’s number one problem,” Johnston wrote.
“I am so disappointed that Jim, whose exploits this year as trainer, owner and breeder, have put him on a something of a pedestal for me, has stooped to making such damaging accusations without, it seems, any corroborating evidence whatsoever.
“There have always been conspiracy theories around anyone who has unexpected or unwelcome success in racing. I have often been on the receiving end of jibes such as ‘he’s a vet, he must be giving them something’, but people like Jim Bolger should know better.
“He is one of the most successful trainers of our time. If he can achieve so much without cheating, why can’t he accept that others can too?”