08/09/2010 2:14PM

Tattersalls bans corticosteroids at yearling sale

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England’s Tattersalls auction house in Newmarket will begin drug-testing for corticosteroids at its yearling sales this fall, marketing director Jimmy George confirmed.

The company has contacted its consignors to let them know that their sale entries will be subject to testing.

Tattersalls is believed to be the first major British or European Thoroughbred auction house to conduct corticosteroid testing for its yearling sales.

“Corticosteroids were added to the Tattersalls testing procedures following consultation with our vets,” George said. “They advised us that corticosteroids can be used for similar purposes as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs we already test for, so it was a logical addition in terms of buyer confidence.”

A number of major American auction houses – including Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton, Barretts, and Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company – have signed on to a uniform sale policy allowing only one corticosteroid to be administered on sale grounds; Barretts specifically has banned administration of all but one corticosteroid, dexamethasone, which is sold in the United States under the brand name Azium. The policies are in the companies’ conditions of sale.

Corticosteroids are given to horses to suppress immune response and inflammation as well as lameness. They can be used to treat everything from allergic reactions like hives, to inflammation and lameness from arthritis or performance-related joint problems to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. But they can also have such side effects as an increased risk for laminitis and decreased wound-healing ability, especially when used in high doses, over a long period, or in conjunction with other steroids.

Buyers requesting corticosteroid tests will pay about $360, plus tax. A positive test will give the buyer the right to return the horse.

Tattersalls, like other major Thoroughbred sales houses, also tests for anabolic steroids and has done so since 2008.

In addition to dexamethasone, corticosteroids also include such drugs as trimacinolone (brand name Vetalog) and methylprednisolone acetate (Depo-Medrol).