Mandatory Tests for Steroids Set for Graded Stakes

The American Graded Stakes Committee will add four commonly used anabolic steroids to its list of substances subject to testing.

The American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association will add four commonly used anabolic steroids to the list of substances for which horses must be tested in graded stakes effective Jan. 1, 2008.

The move dovetails with national efforts to regulate use of steroids in horses. Model Rules have been developed to govern boldenone (Equipoise), stanozolol (Winstrol), nandrolone (Durabolin), and testosterone, but each racing jurisdiction must adopt the protocol.

Currently, Iowa and Virginia are the only states that test for steroids in racehorses.

The graded stakes committee several years ago adopted a policy whereby horses in all graded stakes are subject to tests for up to 140 substances, 79 mandatory and 61 optional. Drug-testing laboratories confirm the tests have been performed through certified letter; individual jurisdictions decide whether to call a positive based on their own protocol.

Andy Schweigardt, director of industry relations and development for TOBA and secretary of the AGSC, said the committee had discussed adding steroids to the mandatory testing list for some time but was waiting for the Association of Racing Commissioners International to adopt a Model Rule, which it did in April. The four commonly used steroids are Class 4, or therapeutic substances “expected to have less potential to affect performance” than Class 3, Class 2, or Class 1 drugs.

A 2005 AGSC survey of 30 samples showed 50% contained at least one anabolic steroid, and several had two. A related TOBA study of owners’ veterinary bills revealed that of 143 horses, 25% were treated with at least one steroid and 18% were on a regular steroid regimen, Schweigardt said.

Though use of the steroids won’t be “banned,” a withdrawal time of 30 to 60 days would prevent their use on race day and greatly curtail putting horses on steroid regimens. There is debate in the racing industry whether steroids enhance performance.

With the addition of the four steroids to the list, there will be 83 substances that must be tested for in graded stakes--of which there are more than 400 in the United States--next year. Schweigardt said the list will continue to be updated.

“We’ve always said that from time to time as science changes, our protocol will change,” Schweigardt said. “The committee will continue to look at adding other steroids to the list.”

TOBA president Dan Metzger said he doesn’t believe owners and breeders would protest steroids testing in graded stakes.

“I would think the majority of people think (use of steroids) should be regulated to the level of the Model Rules or be banned totally,” Metzger said. “The feedback from owners has been very positive. Most people just want a level playing field.”