By: Jacob Borg
Horse owners forming part of the Malta Racing Club (MRC) have raised questions about a decision to allow two horses to retain their race wins, despite testing positive for a steroid that remains present in the horses’ bloodstream for a number of weeks.
Information available on the MRC’s website shows the two horses were disqualified for doping after winning their respective races on March 24 and April 29.
While the doping results were still pending, the two horses went on to each win a championship race a few weeks after the tests were taken.
The two horses did not compete in any subsequent championship races.
Sources familiar with the situation said the two horses were found to have been given steroids, which remained present in the horses’ blood stream for several weeks.
The sources said no certification was ever provided by the horse owners, showing their horses were free from drugs after competing in the championship race.
This meant the two horse owners who came second in the race lost out on some €300 each in prize money, despite the fact that the two horses potentially still had the steroids in their system.
Replying to questions by the Times of Malta, a spokeswoman for the Sports Secretariat, under whose remit the MRC falls, said it was informed that all doping regulations were being followed by the club.
“While the government does not delve into such decisions, it is aware that, as per normal procedures, if a horse owner is found guilty of doping, the horse owner is suspended from racing in that particular championship or competition,” the spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for MRC said this was the first time that horses went on to win another race while their doping test results were still pending. He added any suspension was always effective from the date it was issued, rather than the day the horse was submitted for a doping test.
“It is obvious that the MRC cannot decide that a horse is or was positive for any prohibited substance on a race date if it has not being subjected to a dope test after such race,” the spokesman said.
Sources who spoke to the Times of Malta insisted that in such a case, the onus was on the horse owners to provide a certificate proving that the horses were free of the steroids.
The MRC spokesman said it could sometimes take up to a month for the doping test results to be published, as these were analysed by a lab in France.
The tests were sent to the lab by courier a day after the race, the spokesman said.