Australian Racing Board Announces Ban On Anabolic Steroids To Take Effect In May
Anabolic steroids "are to be banned in Australian horse racing, with officials pledging zero tolerance of performance-enhancing drugs," according to Frank Keogh of the BBC. The move comes five months after a drugs scandal in the U.K. "highlighted anomalies in worldwide rules." The Australian Racing Board said that its ban will take effect on May 1 and "apply to all thoroughbreds from the age of six months." ARB CEO Peter McGauran said, "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" (BBC, 9/16). In London, Greg Wood wrote 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." Differing attitudes to the use of steroids in racing jurisdictions around the world "were highlighted earlier this year as a result of the Godolphin doping scandal at Moulton Paddocks in Newmarket." Australia has now followed Dubai, which is ruled by Godolphin founder Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, "by introducing strict new rules on the use of steroids." 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, Australian Trainers' Association President Colin Alderson said that it would be "a complete over-reaction ... because of one isolated incident" in the U.K. (GUARDIAN, 9/16).
RULE CHANGE: RACING POST's Stuart Riley wrote Australia's rules on the use of steroids "had caused many of their successes overseas, most notably at Royal Ascot, to be called into question and part of the thinking behind the rule change was to abolish suspicion and retain public confidence in the sport in Australia." McGauran said, "Foremost in the board's consideration was the need for absolute integrity and public confidence in racing. ... 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" (RACING POST, 9/16). In Melbourne, Patrick Bartley wrote Racing Victoria stewards swooped on two of the state's biggest training centers, "carrying out early-morning raids and conducting blood tests from all horses who competed at Saturday's meeting at Moonee Valley." RVL stewards "arrived at Caulfield and Flemington racecourses to test for banned substances 48 hours after events." On Saturday, RVL stewards withdrew South Australian galloper Happy Trails from the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley "after discovering a puncture wound on the horse's neck." Stewards from the Compliance Assurance Team told stewards at Moonee Valley that "they had inspected Happy Trails in his stable at 9am and noticed no abnormality" (THE AGE, 9/17). In London, Wood wrote British Horseracing Authority CEO Paul Bittar said on Monday that "the regulator will investigate whether it will be able to follow the lead set by the Australian Racing Board and introduce a blanket ban on the use of anabolic steroids in horses both in and out of competition." The speed and above all the scope of the Australian reaction to the scandal "has come as a surprise to many, including Bittar." Bittar: "It's a very positive move and a significant move for Australian racing given their current and previous position." Australian racing is more localized than its British counterpart, and centered "around the major tracks in Sydney and Melbourne." As a result, a blanket ban on steroids should prove more straightforward to implement and uphold than would a similar ban in Britain, "where stables are scattered across the country and the BHA can regulate only licensed training premises" (GUARDIAN, 9/16).