By: Tom Kerr
The BHA is now testing the first four finishers in all Group races on the Flat and all Grade 1 jumps races in a move that represents a significant escalation of British racing’s war on doping, which will also see all samples screened for a number of new substances, including cobalt, from next year.
Previously just the winner was automatically tested, along with selected others, while only around ten per cent of samples were sent for additional tests to detect elevated levels of cobalt, a naturally occurring trace element which is potentially performance enhancing when administered at higher levels.
The new regime was announced at a media briefing on Tuesday at which the BHA sought to highlight its investment and commitment to improving its integrity, compliance and anti-doping operations, which already occupy up to 60 per cent of the regulator’s workforce and have a multi-million pound annual budget.
Chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea said: “From September 1 this year we quietly introduced a change to our policy in relation to sample collection – that in all Group 1, 2 and 3 Flat races and all Grade 1 jumps races we would test the first four.
“That is driven by a desire to further protect the international Pattern and enhance the integrity around the best quality races conducted in Britain.
“We are committed to being seen to set an international standard and hope that by doing this it will become the international norm that the major racing jurisdictions will adopt.
“We’ve now been able to include some additional sample analyses that were separate to the standard screen, such as cobalt, into the standard screen.”
Dunshea said the sport has also enhanced its capacity to test for synthetic peptides, laboratory-developed performance-enhancing drugs, and alkalising agents, commonly referred to as milkshaking, which neutralise the lactic acid horses produce during exercise.
The increased level of testing had carried logistical challenges, Dunshea added, especially on cards with several Group races such as Champions Day, requiring “significant resource redistribution”.
Chris Watts, the BHA’s head of integrity assurance, also announced additional hires to his 25-strong investigatory team and changes to that department’s processes and priorities designed to produce a more proactive approach to its work.
The media briefing, which also involved the BHA’s director of integrity and regulation Tim Naylor, represented a rare public insight into the regulator’s internal processes, which have previously taken place behind closed doors.
The BHA said it was now committed to operating not only a more robust and efficient integrity regime, but a more open and transparent one too, saying it would seek to bring cases to hearing before the independent disciplinary panel quicker and provide more information, including evidence disclosure, to accused parties.