A total ban on the use of anabolic steroids by the Australian Racing Board (ARB) both in and out of competition has been welcomed by the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities (IFHA).
“The ARB is to be commended for this historical decision,” IFHA chairman Louis Romanet said.
“Additionally, I look forward to further discussion on this matter among all IFHA member countries to further two key objectives of the IFHA – to coordinate and harmonize the rules of the member-countries regarding breeding, racing and wagering, and to ensure the quality and fairness of racing in the interest of both the breeding and the public.”
The ARB described the total ban as a watershed moment in Australian racing. It promised stiff penalties for violations.
Anabolic steroids – synthetic derivatives of the male hormone testosterone – promote protein synthesis, muscle growth, red blood cell production, tissue repair after stress and injury, and appetite to meet demands for additional nutrition.
Currently in Australia, anabolic steroids are prohibited in horses only on race day, but the new ban will apply to all thoroughbreds from the age of six months, with that period allowed in the interests of animal welfare.
“The ban on anabolic steroids goes far beyond any other racing jurisdiction outside of Europe and was decided by the ARB Board after lengthy consideration of veterinary and scientific advice and consultation with trainers’ and owners’ associations,” ARB chief executive Peter McGauran said.
“The ARB has adopted a zero tolerance policy to the use of anabolic steroids in competition, training and spelling and will institute heavy penalties for breaches of the ban.
“Foremost in the board’s consideration was the need for absolute integrity and public confidence in racing.
“Although the use of steroids has greatly diminished over the years to the point where they are rarely relied upon by trainers, the ARB believes it is in the best interests of the industry that they no longer be available for any purpose other than as a therapeutic treatment for young foals,” McGauran said.
“Racing is a sport and as such must be a test of the ability of the individual horse, its trainer and rider and not of the pharmacologist, veterinarian or sports scientist.
“The true spirit of competition means that no-one gets an unfair advantage which anabolic steroids can confer in certain situations.”
A new rule will be introduced on November 1, with the ban taking effect from May 1 next year, thereby giving six months for a treated horse to be free of anabolic steroids, McGauran said.