"It's the first step in regulating anabolic steroids in California horse racing," said Dr. Rick Arthur, the state's equine medical director. "This is the most important action the board will take on medications this year."
The restrictions on stanazolol, a manufactured steroid known in the trade as Winstrol, along with nandrolone, boldenone and testosterone must be reviewed by the state's administrative law office. The latter three steroids all can occur naturally in horses, Arthur said.
The levels follow guidelines for urine testing recommended by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the Racing Commissioner International. Arthur said the new thresholds need to move forward now in order to be in place this fall. The CHRB plans to hold the first steroid-free Breeders' Cup Oct. 24-25 at Santa Anita.
Stanazolol would not be permitted above 1 nanogram per milliliter (npm) in any starter. Nandrolone will be restricted to less than 1 npm for geldings, fillies and mares, but 45 nanograms for non-gelded males. Boldenone -- marketed as Equipoise -- will be limited to 15 npm for non-gelded males. Testosterone will be permitted at any level for non-gelded males, but restricted to 20 npm for geldings and 55 npm for fillies and mares.
Punishment for overages has yet to be finalized. In the meantime, the CHRB intends to send warning letters for any overages.
How those letters will be viewed has some trainers worried about repercussions. "We do favor the regulation of steroids," said Ed Halpern of the California Thoroughbred Trainers. "But we do not yet have accurate withdrawal times. That raises some concern."
Those withdrawal times are close to finalization, Arthur said.
"Trainers are asking how close can we dance to the fire without getting burned," he added. "I'm not totally sympathetic. If you don't use anabolic steroids, you won't get a positive. It's that simple."
CHRB chairman Richard Shapiro noted that the timing is right for regulation. "Anybody who reads the news knows this is something obvious," he said. "We need to move forward. This is something that will help the whole industry very quickly."