Enforcement of Great Britain's recently announced "zero-tolerance" ban on steroid use in Thoroughbred racehorses could be tricky for American horses running abroad, depending on how testing is conducted, according to Dionne Benson, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.
Benson gave a presentation on the issue Aug. 6 during the annual meeting of Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association members, which is held in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
"These are my two least-favorite words in racing—zero tolerance," Benson said. "It is a misnomer especially when it involves naturally occurring substances. If they test in blood or urine, then you have a time course, then you have the ability to determine how long ago something was administered. If you test in hair, then it is more uncertain."
In late June, the British Horseracing Authority announced its "enhanced zero-tolerance policy," which states a horse must not be given an anabolic steroid at any point in its life. Penalties include a ban from training for 12 months and a prohibition from starting in any race in Britain for 14 months. The policy is to be implemented by Jan. 1, 2015, pending the implementation of the necessary rule changes. New minimum standards on steroid use were published by International Federation of Horseracing Authorities in October 2013, but following research and consultation the BHA outlined the official policy.
The BHA's action comes in the wake of high-profile cases involving trainers Mahmood Al Zarooni and Gerard Butler, who both were found guilty of administering performance-enhancing substances.
The new policy as it pertains to foreign runners—apart from those imported from Ireland, France, and Germany that have spent at least 12 months under similar policies—states the horses must be in Britain a minimum of 14 days in advance of their intended race for post-arrival sampling and analysis. The results will be received prior to the horse running.
There are questions, however, regarding how sale horses imported from the United States might be handled. The conditions of sale state a consignor warrants that any weanling, yearling, or 2-year-old has not been administered an exogenous anabolic steroid within 45 days of the day it's sold. A plasma test, however, can reveal exogenous anabolic steroid use between 45 and 180 days out, according to Benson; even longer if the BHA decides to test tail hair samples.
"If they test in blood or urine, then you have a time course, then you have the ability to determine how long ago something was administered. If you test in hair, then it is more uncertain," Benson said. Testing hair samples yields uncertain results because it is only effective in identifying whether a synthetic anabolic steroid was given as opposed to aqueous testosterone.
"They need to switch to a threshold for stallions or any horse that was ever intact or it will be hard to enforce," she said.
In other TOBA news:
Peter Willmott was re-elected as chairman of the TOBA Board of Trustees. Also joining Willmott on the board to serve three-year terms as new members are Barbara Banke, Mike Caruso, Brant Laue, and Kenneth McPeek.
Re-elected to three-year terms were current trustees Clifford Barry, Antony Beck, John Greely IV, Michael McMahon, Willmott, and Jack Wolf.
Immediately following its annual members meeting, the TOBA Board of Trustees met to elect officers for the 2,000-member association. Officers named for 2014-2015 are: Willmott, chairman, Dr. J. David Richardson, vice-chairman; Dan Metzger, president; Eric Hamelback, secretary; and McMahon, treasurer.
American Graded Stake Committee
has three new members because three racing officials hit their term-limit of nine years. The new members are Ben Huffman, racing secretary at Keeneland
and Churchill Downs
; Martin Panza, senior vice president of racing for the New York Racing Association; and Tom Robbins, vice president of racing at Del Mar
. The three officials stepping down are Rogers Beasley, Keeneland's director of racing; P.J Campo, vice president of racing for The Stronach Group; and Mike Dempsey, director of racing at Monmouth Park
Craig Bernick, president and COO of Glen Hill Farm, also will be taking the seat on the committee formerly held by Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm.
Joining the three racing officials on the AGSC for the coming year are the following TOBA representatives: chairman Richardson, Reynolds Bell, Mike Levy, Mike O'Farrell, Willmott, and Bernick. The other racing officials on the committee are Rick Hammerle, Santa Anita Park
president of racing, and Allison DeLuca, racing secretary at Tampa Bay Downs
Regarding the Claiming Crown, two new races will be created this year in an effort to boost field size.
The series of eight races, to be run Dec. 6 on the Gulfstream Park
opening day and offering $1 million in total purses, will include a new $110,000 one-mile race on the dirt for fillies and mares (claiming price $12,500) and a $110,000 five-furlong turf sprint (claiming price $25,000).
"The filly and mare race going two turns was a disappointment last year as far as field size, with the smallest field of the day at eight horses, and the filly and mare sprint has been up and down over the years" said Andy Schweigardt, TOBA's director of industry relations and development. "By combining these two races hopefully we'll attract enough from each of those sets of horses where we can have a field of 10 or more."
Schweigardt said he expects the overall performance of the event to improve because Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino & Race Course
are no longer running live races simultaneously. The head-to-head competition a year ago contributed to a $4 million decline in handle.
The Claiming Crown is a partnership between TOBA and the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.