Testing for Steroids Slow to Begin

Testing for steroids in 2-year-old sale horses is slow to begin.

The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. is the only major auction firm that will regulate the use of exogenous anabolic steroids in 2-year-olds in training this year. But Barretts is “committed” to introducing a policy for juveniles beginning in 2009, company president and general manager Jerry McMahon said.

For its April sale of 2-year-olds in training, Keeneland is following the rules of racing in its home state of Kentucky, which allow use of steroids, said Keeneland’s director of sales, Geoffrey Russell. Fasig-Tipton hasn’t taken any action because of the lack of uniformity in racing rules in the states where it sells juveniles, Fasig-Tipton executive Boyd Browning said.

However, both Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton have banned steroid administration within 45 days of a sale in weanlings and yearlings.

“We didn’t see a point in waiting,” said Tom Ventura, the OBS general manager and director of sales, about his company’s decision to tackle the steroids issue in 2-year-olds. “We felt it was appropriate with a lot of racetracks in different states adopting policies that are becoming effective now or will do so shortly. We wanted to give that little extra comfort to the buyers, who will be taking their horses to states where they aren’t going to be able to race on steroids.

“Steroid use is an issue that’s so prominent right now that it was important for us to take a stance once we had the science to back us up. We feel comfortable with the test that the University of Florida has in place, and we’re ready to go.”

Under the OBS policy, steroids can’t be administered to sale 2-year-olds within 45 days of an auction. Buyers can request that their purchases be tested for steroids, and they will be able to rescind a sale if there is a positive result. Regulation will begin with the OBS February juvenile auction and will include weanlings and yearlings later this year.

The California Horse Racing Board is working toward banning steroids, and Barretts is waiting for state officials to develop testing procedures before regulating steroid use in sale horses. Barretts’ plan is to begin enforcing a rule later this year that will prohibit the sale of yearlings and weanlings that have been treated with steroids within 45 days of an auction.

“We have been told that the racing side of the business will have the procedures ready in early summer,” McMahon said. “When we find out what the procedures in racing are going to be, we’re hopeful they will fit into what we need to do for our horses in training sales.”

Russell said Keeneland will begin regulating steroids in sale 2-year-olds when they are banned in Kentucky racing.

“Our 2-year-old sale follows the Kentucky rules of racing,” Russell said. “Now, at the moment, the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority allows anabolic steroids in racing. But they’ve already started procedures to review that policy. Once they make a ruling and change the rules of racing, we will follow suit with our 2-year-old sale.

“When we started our 2-year-old sale, the whole concept was that we believed that a buyer should be able to buy a horse and then be able to race that horse the next day under the same rules and regulations.”

Fasig-Tipton officials are taking a wait-and-see approach.

“We’re selling in a variety of jurisdictions, each of which has its own different set of rules of racing, and 2-year-olds have kind of fallen into the same category (as racehorses),” Browning said. “Obviously, there is a lot activity taking place on a national basis concerning steroids, and we’ll continue to monitor that in the future.”