07/31/2007 11:00PM

Stakes group orders tests for steroids


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The organization that administers grades for stakes races has adopted a policy that will add four commonly used anabolic steroids to the list of drugs that will be targeted by post-race detection tests in graded stakes beginning in 2008.

The American Graded Stakes Committee, which is overseen by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, moved to add the anabolic steroids to the post-race testing regimen after receiving reports that anabolic steroids were present in at least half of the post-race samples of horses that won 30 graded stakes last year, according to Andrew Schweigardt, the secretary of the committee and an official of TOBA.

"That really got our attention, and that started all the discussion," Schweigardt said.

The regulation of steroid use has become a major topic of discussion in the U.S. racing industry in the past 18 months. The U.S. is the only major racing jurisdiction in the world that allows the unregulated use of anabolic steroids, which can build muscle mass, restore a horse's appetite, and help horses recover from strenuous exercise.

Earlier this year, the Association of Racing Commissioners International adopted a model rule that would ban the use of four anabolic steroids - boldenone, nandrolone, stanozolol, and testosterone - within 30 days of a race. The rule has not been formally adopted in any racing state, although Virginia has adopted a policy to test for the steroids and enforce an existing prohibition on the drugs. Anabolic steroids are also illegal in Iowa.

For a race to retain its grade, the new graded stakes committee policy will require testing for the four anabolic steroids identified in the RCI model rule. The stakes committee already requires racetracks to pay for testing for 79 drugs, with another 61 drugs considered optional under the policy.

Because only two states prohibit anabolic steroids, the impact of the new policy would be extremely limited if it were adopted today. Although Schweigardt acknowledged that positives can only be called in states in which steroids are illegal, he said the American Graded Stakes Committee was hopeful that more states would adopt the RCI's model rule by year's end, and that regulators in those states would look to the committee's decision as an incentive to adopt the rule.

"It's our hope a lot of states come on line with the rule by the end of the year, and that this will help them," Schweigardt said. "This is something that the board believes in."