THE Australian Racing Board has announced a complete ban on the use of anabolic steroids in racehorses both in and out of training in what has been described as a “watershed moment” for the country’s racing industry.
At present, steroids are only illegal in Australia if they are present in a horse’s system on the day of a race, and can be administered without penalty to horses both in and out of training so long as they are “clean” when they compete. From 1 November, however, it will be illegal to give steroids to any horse older than six months, while the ban will take effect from 1 May 2014, to allow any horses which have been treated a six-month period for the drugs, and their effects, to clear.
Peter McGauran, ARB.
Anabolic steroids boost a horse’s metabolism, promoting muscle growth and general well-being, tending to increase both their strength and resilience. In addition to performance-enhancing effects during a race, this can also mean that a trainer will be able to exercise a horse more regularly and strenuously beforehand.
These beneficial effects will also persist for weeks or even months after the steroid itself has left a horse’s system. Muscle laid down as a result of the anabolic effect of the drug, for instance, will tend to remain for as long as the horse is in regular work.
“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,” Peter McGauran, the chief executive of ARB, said on Monday.
“The ARB has adopted a zero-tolerance policy to the use of anabolic steroids in competition, training and spelling [pre-training] and will institute heavy penalties for breaches of the ban.”
The ban is likely to prove controversial, initially at least, among some Australian trainers. When senior ARB executives suggested in April that stricter regulation of steroids was under consideration, Colin Alderson, the president of the Australian Trainers’ Association, said that it would be “a complete over-reaction … because of one isolated incident in the UK.”
Alderson added: “Racehorses need every bit of help. You give a horse a dose of steroids to help it thrive out in the paddock, you can bring it back earlier and start earning some money earlier for the owner.” – The Guardian.