British Steroid Could Impact American Horses Racing Abroad

British Steroid Could Impact American Horses Racing Abroad

In late June, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced its "enhanced zero-tolerance policy," which states a horse must not be given an anabolic steroid at any point in its life.

Photo: Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Enforcement of Great Britain's recently announced "zero-tolerance" ban on steroid use in Thoroughbred racehorses could be tricky for American horses running abroad, depending on how testing is conducted, said Dionne Benson, DVM, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC).

Benson gave a presentation on the issue Aug. 6 during the annual meeting of Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association members, which is held in Saratoga Springs, New York.

"These are my two least-favorite words in racing—zero-tolerance," Benson said. "It is a misnomer especially when it involves naturally occurring substances."

In late June, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced its "enhanced zero-tolerance policy," which states a horse must not be given an anabolic steroid at any point in its life. Penalties include a ban from training for 12 months and a prohibition from starting in any race in Britain for 14 months. The policy is to be implemented by Jan. 1, 2015, pending the implementation of the necessary rule changes. New minimum standards on steroid use were published by International Federation of Horseracing Authorities in October 2013, but following research and consultation the BHA outlined the official policy.

The BHA's action comes in the wake of high-profile cases involving trainers Mahmood Al Zarooni and Gerard Butler, who both were found guilty of administering performance-enhancing substances to horses in their care.

The new policy as it pertains to foreign runners—apart from those imported from Ireland, France, and Germany that have spent at least 12 months under similar policies—states the horses must be in Britain a minimum of 14 days in advance of their intended race for post-arrival sampling and analysis. The results will be received prior to the horse running.

There are questions, however, regarding how sale horses imported from the United States might be handled. The conditions of sale state a consignor warrants that any weanling, yearling, or 2-year-old has not been administered an exogenous anabolic steroid within 45 days of the day it's sold. A plasma test, however, can reveal exogenous anabolic steroid use between 45 and 180 days out, Benson, said, and even longer if the BHA decides to test tail hair samples.

"If they test in blood or urine, then you have a time course, then you have the ability to determine how long ago something was administered. If you test in hair, then it is more uncertain," Benson said. Testing hair samples yields uncertain results because it is only effective in identifying whether a synthetic anabolic steroid was given as opposed to aqueous testosterone.

"They need to switch to a threshold for stallions or any horse that was ever intact or it will be hard to enforce," she said.

Originally published on BloodHorse.com.

About the Author

Eric Mitchell

Eric Mitchell is a Editorial Director and Editor-in-Chief The Blood-Horse magazine.

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