By Jim Freer
The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering on Dec. 18 announced the issuance of new rules on use of anabolic steroids for race horses in the state.
The new rules ban the use of several specific steroids, and will take effect on Dec. 30. Thus, Florida is meeting the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association’s American Graded Stakes Committee’s deadline for states to have steroid rules in place for their racetracks to retain eligibility for graded stakes.
The Florida DPMW also adopted new rules on toe grabs, which also will take effect Dec. 30. The toe grab rules are in line with those that the Graded Stakes Committee and The Jockey Club recommended and which the Association of Racing Commissioners International and the Racing and Medication Consortium adopted this year.
The steroid and toe grab rules will apply to Calder Race Course, Gulfstream Park, and Tampa Bay Downs.
As recommended by the Racing Medication Consortium, Florida will allow a 90-day grace period, beginning Dec. 30, before the steroid penalty enforcement begins. If an anabolic steroid overage is found during this grace period, the DPMW will notify and warn the trainer.
The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association recommended the phase-in period. The phase-in will help trainers adjust to the changes and alleviate some early concerns about timing for detection of steroids that have been legal, said Kent Stirling, the Florida HPBA’s executive director.
The DPMW based its new rules partly on recommendations it received at two workshops with members of the Florida HBPA, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, racetrack officials, and veterinarians.
“It is important that Florida has joined other states in adopting these rules,“ said David Roberts, director of the Florida DPMW. “We are making sure that horses are not running on illegal substances that could harm them, or lead to incidents where the riders could suffer harm.”
The major thrust of Florida’s new rules is that no Androgenic-Anabolic Steroids shall be permitted in test samples collected from racing horses, except for the major metabolites of stanozolol, nandrolone, and the naturally occurring substances boldenone and testosterone at concentrations less than the following thresholds:
* Stanozolol or 16β-hydroxystanozolol – 1 nanogram per milliliter in urine for all horses regardless of sex.
* Boldenone – 15 nanograms per milliliter in urine of male horses other than geldings. No
boldenone shall be permitted in geldings or female horses.
* Nandrolone – 1 nanogram per milliliter in urine of geldings or females; or 45 nanograms per
milliliter of metabolite, 5α-oestrane-3β,17α-diol in urine of male horses other than geldings.
* Testosterone – 20 nanograms per milliliter in urine of geldings, 55 nanograms per milliliter in urine of females. Samples collected from male horses other than geldings will not be tested for testosterone.
If tests show any of those drugs were administered within 30 days prior to a race or in some cases within 45 days, trainers are subject to penalties.
Under the new rules, detection of banned steroids would remain a Class IV violation with penalty of a fine of up to $250. For a second violation within a 12-month period, maximum penalties are a fine of up to $500. For a third or subsequent violation within a 12-month period, the maximum penalties are a fine of up to $1,000, and a suspension of license up to 30 days.
The Florida DPMW is preparing proposed rules with tougher penalties on trainers' positive tests for certain drugs, such as steroids, and tougher penalties on all drug classifications.
At a minimum, the DPMW will propose to follow the RCI Model Rules and make steroids a Class III drug. Florida’s current penalties for a Class III violation start with a fine of up to $500 for a first violation. For a second violation within 12 months of a previous violation, maximum penalties are a fine of up to $750 and a suspension of up to 30 days.
For a third offense within 24 months of the second offense, maximum penalties are a fine of up to $1,000 and a suspension of up to 60 days.
The DPMW believes the rules will enable trainers and veterinarians to administer steroids for therapeutic or other reasons during periods when horses are given breaks from racing. Roberts noted that the Racing Laboratory at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, which administers drug tests, believes that 30 to 45 days is the usual time frame for steroids to withdraw from horses’ systems.
“It is not a problem to be using them that far before bringing a horse back (racing),” he said. “We need to show the betting public that horses are not racing on them.”
Florida’s new toe grab rules prohibit toe grabs with a height greater than two millimeters, bends, jar calks, and any other traction device worn on the front shoes of Thoroughbreds while racing or training at a Florida pari-mutuel facility.