Britain is just days away from introducing new rules requiring that no horse should ever be administered an anabolic steroid before or during its racing career, with no exceptions.
The new rules were published today by the British Horseracing Authority and will come into force on March 2.
The zero-tolerance policy is one of the key planks of the new rules. The ban applies not only to anabolic steroids but other anabolic agents; substances not approved for veterinary use; peptide hormones; growth factors and related substances; hormone and metabolic modulators; manipulation of blood and blood components; blood transfusions; genetic and cellular manipulation; and oxygen carriers.
Any horse found to have been administered an anabolic steroid will face a mandatory stand-down period from training for 12 months and will be ineligible to start in any race in Great Britain for 14 months.
The authority says it will ensure other racing jurisdictions are aware of its new policy to cover horses brought into Britain for racing. It has also published a guide to explain the requirements to those responsible for the care of racehorses.
The zero-tolerance policy, announced in June last year, requies that a horse must never be administered with an anabolic steroid at any time from birth to retirement.
The rules also introduce greater powers for the authority in terms of access for testing registered horses; the requirement for horses to be registered from a younger age, and for the agency to be aware of their whereabouts at all times.
There are more stringent penalties for horses found to have been administered with anabolic steroids, and greater controls on horses running in Britain from international jurisdictions.
The authority’s chief executive, Nick Rust, said: “The publication of the new rules marks another step on the journey for both British racing and the racing community internationally.
“By ‘zero-tolerance’ we mean that no horse should ever be administered an anabolic steroid or similar substance for as long as it is involved in racing, with no exceptions.
“This policy is supported by the enhanced powers which we can now call upon both to regulate the sport and to deter those who believe they can succeed in circumventing the rules.
“We hope that the steps we have taken will lead other nations to follow suit and implement rules that are as stringent as ours, for the good of the sport and the horse.
“There is no current evidence that the use of anabolic steroids or other similar substances is endemic in British racing. We showed in 2013 that when it does take place we are able to detect it and act on it. But we must never be complacent.”
The authority’s director or raceday operations, Jamie Stier, said the new tules meant that there were extended responsibilities for owners, trainers and breeders to ensure that they complied.
“Similarly, connections of international runners now have extra responsibility when running horses in Britain. We do not anticipate this being a major barrier to international horses competing here …”
Rupert Arnold, who is chief executive of the National Trainers Federation, said the new anti-doping policy had the potential to influence the racing and bloodstock industries internationally.
“It is right that British racing takes the lead in this area and we support the BHA wholeheartedly.”
Racehorse Owners Association chief executive Richard Wayman voiced his organisation’s support for the policy, as did the chief executive of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association, Louise Kemble.
In the longer term, hair sampling will form an important part of the authority’s testing procedures, alongside existing blood and urine tests.
Hair sampling allows for the detection of substances administered over a much longer period than blood and urine. It has been used on an occasional basis for some time and this will continue to be the case.
However as the rules mature over time this sampling method will form a more regular part of testing procedures, the authority said.
Major industry stakeholders in North America voiced their backing for the new rules.
Barretts Sales, Breeders’ Cup Limited, Commercial Consignors and Breeders Association, Fasig-Tipton, Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, Keeneland Association, Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Inc., New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company, The Jockey Club, and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association issued a statement saying: “The global nature of Thoroughbred breeding, racing and sales relies heavily on international harmonization of rules, particularly in the area of medication, and these new rules move all of us further down that road.
“We also appreciate that the BHA has acknowledged some of the practical and logistical challenges of implementing these new rules. We trust that this recognition will yield an open and ongoing dialogue among our organizations, BHA officials and other constituencies.
“We look forward to the publication of critical information regarding testing protocols and the laboratories, in the United States and elsewhere, that have been accredited to conduct the tests.
“The BHA recognizes that, at present, there is no facility for trainers or owners to request sampling to provide assurance that a horse is clear before they take on or purchase a horse and has made implementation of such a system in the next few weeks a priority.”
“The BHA’s new anti-doping rules bring further international harmonization to thoroughbred racing and clearly demonstrate that thoroughbred racing is following the lead of other international sports in reaffirming its commitment to the integrity of competition by banning steroid use.”
The guide is available for download here.