A directive issued Aug. 21 by Kirk Breed, the CHRB's executive director, said any horse that receives an anabolic steroid on or after that date, will be placed on the agency's veterinarian list for a minimum of 30 days. The order was sent to Dr. Rick M. Arthur, the CHRB's equine medical director, official veterinarians, racing officials, stewards, trainers, and owners.
The action comes after a meeting of the CHRB's medication committee Aug. 19 that included a report from Arthur citing evidence that some trainers were continuing to use anabolic steroids on their horses before such conduct brings more severe penalties Sept. 4.
“We mean business,” exclaimed an angry CHRB chairman Richard B. Shapiro during the committee meeting.
“We will have no sympathy for any owners or trainers who flaunt our rules,” agreed vice chairman John Harris, who serves on the medication committee with Shapiro.
None of the owners or trainers was identified during the meeting, although it was later learned that CHRB investigators had searched the stable area of leading trainer John Sadler. Breed said there could be further shakedowns.
The CHRB has been phasing in the new prohibition of anabolic steroids and penalties for violations in order to give horsemen fair notice and to allow sufficient time for any previously administered anabolic steroids to completely leave the systems of horses racing in California.
The process of adopting these new regulations has been in the works for more than a year and discussed at numerous public meetings. On May 12, the CHRB issued an advisory informing all trainers that testing for anabolic steroids would commence July 1, and they were advised to stop using those drugs. Any owner or trainer who had a horse test above permitted levels for nandrolone, boldenone, stanozolol, or testosterone during July was sent an unofficial notice of a potential Class 4 violation. Those unofficial notices advised owners and trainers to review their medication procedures and referred the licensees to previous CHRB anabolic steroids advisories.
On Aug.1, the CHRB began official enforcement of all regulations for the four steroids. This step was clearly announced in another CHRB advisory/directive, which was widely reported by the media. The final phase comes Sept. 4, when penalties will increase for reclassified (Class 3) nandrolone, boldenone, stanozolol, and testosterone. Violations will result in the automatic forfeiture of purse money, and licensees will face possible suspensions and fines.
Arthur reported at the meeting that from 418 tests for anabolic steroids performed in July at Hollywood Park and Del Mar, 38 contained testosterone, nandrolone, stanozolol, or boldenone in excess of authorized levels, and of those, 28 involved two trainers. Significantly, Dr. Arthur also reported that in the last week, anabolic steroids were being administered within three days of racing. He emphasized that with the exception of two trainers, the compliance rate on the Southern California thoroughbred circuit is 97%.
“It’s shameful that two or three people have taken an abusive approach for personal gain at the expense of the rest of the industry,” Shapiro said. He further noted that “97 percent of owners and trainers complied with our rules, and they deserve praise, not to be disadvantaged by a few people who chose to ignore the rules.”
Historically, the analysis of blood and urine samples has taken place days after the horses raced, but last year the CHRB also began testing horses in training that were not yet entered to run. Now the board will be stepping up its use of out-of-competition testing.
The CHRB maintains a list of sick and injured horses, which is commonly known as the vet's list. Horses on this list are not eligible to compete in races, and they must demonstrate their complete recovery before they can be taken off the list. Anabolic steroids are approved by the FDA for use in sick or debilitated horses. State law requires a legitimate medical purpose to prescribe anabolic steroids and prohibits their use for the purpose of enhancing athletic performance.
CHRB anabolic steroid regulations permit the administration of anabolic steroids to sick horses to aid their recovery, but anabolic steroids are not permitted for racing purposes. Therefore, beginning Aug. 22, any horse administered anabolic steroids will be placed on the official CHRB veterinarian’s list for 30 days.
“During their recovery period, those horses will not be allowed to race,” said Shapiro. “This is reasonable in all respects. It protects the horse, the other participants, and the public."