02/24/2015 3:53PM

Britain tightens steroid rules


Horses based in the U.S. that are being pointed to races in Britain will have to arrive in the country 10 days prior to the race and will be subjected to a new zero-tolerance policy on the use of anabolic steroids under new rules announced by the British Horseracing Authority on Tuesday.

The new rules, which will go into effect on March 2, ban the administration of an anabolic steroid at any time in a horse’s racing career, starting at birth. Horses that test positive for the drugs at any time, including while being prepared for auction, will be subject to a 14-month ban in the country.

The rules, which were first announced last summer, will require all horses from the U.S. and many other foreign countries that do not have similar zero-tolerance policies to arrive in Britain within “10 business days” of running so that the horses can be sampled and tested, the rules state. The results of the tests will be distributed to the horse’s owner prior to the race, according to a copy of the rules.

The British Horseracing Authority, the sport’s regulatory body, began exploring how to crack down on steroid use last year after two prominent trainers received multi-year bans when multiple horses in their care tested positive for the drugs. Mahmood Al Zarooni, who trained for the international Godolphin operation, was banned eight years, and Gerard Butler was banned five years. Both claimed that they did not knowingly administer anabolic steroids, but that the drugs were ingredients in supplements.

Also under the new rules, the British Horseracing Authority must be notified of a horse’s location at all times so that the BHA can collect out-of-competition samples, a requirement that also applies to horses entered in auctions. The testing will include hair sampling, which is far more sensitive than testing blood or urine samples for some banned substances.

While some states in the U.S. have a similar zero-tolerance policy on anabolic steroids, most U.S. racing jurisdictions allow for the use of the drugs as long as they are administered 30 days outside of a race. The 30-day rule was approved by organizations drafting the U.S. racing industry’s model rules under pressure from groups representing veterinarians and horsemen who have maintained that the drugs can have therapeutic uses in restoring a horse’s appetite.

Most major sales companies in the U.S. have also banned the use of anabolic steroids.

A group of 11 organizations, including the Jockey Club, Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton, and a handful of state breeders’ organizations, released a statement on Tuesday expressing general support for the British rules, but it also acknowledged that the BHA will need to iron out some “practical and logistical challenges” relating to the testing of sales horses.

“The BHA recognizes that, at present, there is no facility for trainers and owners to request sampling to provide assurance that a horse is clear before they take on or purchase a horse and has made implementation of such a system in the next few weeks a priority,” the statement read. “The organization said it has also engaged in discussions with sales companies about ways to offer the purchaser greater assurances around the product they are buying and with yearling sales starting in three months, that is a very important issue.”