05/13/2008 11:00PM

Stiffer penalties for steroids in California

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Penalties for excessive use of anabolic steroids in racehorses will be greatly enhanced in California this summer, according to a statement released by the California Horse Racing Board on Tuesday. New board regulations governing steroids take effect May 31, when only four steroids will be allowed for use.

Only trace levels can appear in postrace urine tests for the four steroids - boldenone, nandrolone, stanozolol, and testosterone - the racing board statement said.

When testing begins in earnest on July 1, penalties will be enacted for excessive levels of those steroids. Those penalties will become more severe later this year after two proposed rule amendments work their way through state government, according to Dr. Rick Arthur, the racing board's equine medical director. The rule changes will be submitted to the racing board at a meeting on Tuesday in Sacramento, and are expected to pass.

Arthur expects the tougher penalties to be in place well before the Breeders' Cup championship races are run at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Oct. 24-25. He said Breeders' Cup officials have been made aware of the rule changes.

"The plan is for this to take effect in August or September," Arthur said. "Hopefully that's attainable."

Arthur said the board has proposed two amendments to existing rules that would make tests in excess of the permitted levels of the four steroids a Class 3 violation subject to purse redistribution and a possible fine or suspension for a trainer. Until then, excessive levels of those steroids would be classified as less severe Class 4 or Class 6 violations, resulting in possible fines.

The racing board released a statement on Tuesday noting the permitted levels of the four steroids. Arthur said the statement was released to allow horsemen to give their horses sufficient withdrawal times to avoid violations.

The permitted levels of the four medications vary, according to the racing board's new rule, which is based on the model rule put forth by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. Testosterone, nandrolone, and boldenone occur naturally, the board's release said, while stanozolol is a pharmaceutical steroid.

Stanozolol will be allowed in levels up to one nanogram per milliliter of urine. Nandrolone will be allowed up to one nanogram for geldings and for fillies and mares, and 45 nanograms for entire males. Boldenone will be permitted up to 15 nanograms in males other than geldings.

The rules for testosterone are more complex - 20 nanograms in geldings, and 55 nanograms for fillies and mares. Testosterone is allowed at any level in entire males.