Steroid Test Identifies Hermaphroditic Filly

Year-and-a-half-old testing for anabolic steroids in racehorses produced some unusual results--including the discovery of a Standardbred filly that's actually a male.

In Pennsylvania, tests showed a high elevation of testosterone in Arizona Helen, who was raced at the harness track Harrah's Chester Racetrack and Casino, officials said April 23 during a session at the Association of Racing Commissioners International annual convention in Lexington. The test led to further tests that showed Arizona Helen's white blood cells indicated she had the "XY sex reversal."

Arizona Helen is an equine hermaphrodite.  

"A few little curve balls have been thrown our way," said Scot Waterman, DVM, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

Kent Hastings of the United States Trotting Association said it was found that Arizona Helen has a vagina as well as testicular tissue. Arizona Helen is allowed to race as a male, and isn't suited for breeding purposes.

Testing for anabolic steroids also has uncovered geldings that produce testosterone, Waterman said. The positives required "challenge tests" to prove the geldings have the type of testosterone found in intact males.

Unusual discoveries aside, the RMTC has completed its work on plasma studies for the four regulated steroids--stanozolol, testosterone, boldenone, and nandrolone--Waterman said. There are four options to set threshold levels for testing: set a desired withdrawal period and work backwards; set an arbitrary threshold; use limits determined by quantification of the substances in plasma; or determine where the pharmacologic impact of the drugs end.

The RMTC board, Waterman said, opted for the limit of quantification. That way, he said, would be better for public perception and more cost-effective because less testing would be needed to determine positives.

A recommendation for a model rule for the RCI is still being developed, Waterman said. Most jurisdictions now ban the use of anabolic steroids on race day.

(Originally published at

About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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