The Australian Racing Board announced Sept. 16 it will impose a total ban on the use of anabolic steroids both in and out of competition.
The ban will be introduced Nov. 1 and will take effect May 1, 2014, "thereby giving six months for a treated horse to be free of anabolic steroids," according to a release.
Currently in Australia, anabolic steroids are only prohibited in horses on race day, but the new ban will apply to all Thoroughbreds from the age of 6 months, "with that period allowed in the interests of animal welfare," the announcement 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," ARB chief executive Peter McGauran said in a statement.
"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," McGauran said. "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.
"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."
The ARB did not say when the penalties would be announced nor what steps will be taken to ensure compliance.
Australia's announcement was praised by Louis Romanet, chairman of the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities.
"I welcome and applaud this announcement by the ARB stating a total ban on the use of anabolic steroids both in and out of competition" Romanet said in a statement. "The ARB is to be commended for this historical decision. 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."