By: Patrick Bartley
Large doses of the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen is the reason for the continued number of long-term positive swabs to the treatment on raceday, according to racing sources.
Fairfax Media has been told that a string of race-day positives stem from the improper prescription and treatment of horses on a Victorian property.
An industry source said on Monday that the positive swabs were because the drug had been administered in larger than recommended doses.
Some swabs showed signs that horses had been treated with 20 times the recommended dosage, the source said.
Signoff, who finished fourth in the 2014 Melbourne Cup, returned to racing on Boxing Day and was successful but later returned a positive swab to ibuprofen.
Since then he has been scratched twice as Darren Weir was not confident the horse would swab drug free. Signoff was favourite for next month’s Adelaide Cup.
Ibuprofen is a potent anti-inflammatory and pain-killing drug. It is not registered for use in horses but can be used if a veterinary surgeon prescribes its use.
Racing Victoria chief veterinarian Dr Brian Stewart said the evidence indicated that ibuprofen could be deposited in body fat when given in large amounts or for long periods.
When horses were exercised, the fat was burnt off re-releasing ibuprofen and, potentially, returning a positive swab.
Fairfax Media acknowledges that the horses who had returned positives were not treated at the trainers’ stables and the owners may have been unaware what ibuprofen was being used.
It’s also understood that owners incensed at the overdosing of the anti-inflammatory treatment on their horses have commenced legal action.
It’s understood that all positive swabs have indicated significant levels of ibuprofen rather than trace amounts.
Some owners have called for an exemption or moratorium on ibuprofen positives yet such exemption is at odds with drug-free racing, particularly as ibuprofen is a pain-killing drug with potential to affect performance.
Racing Victoria will discuss the matter at Thursday’s board meeting but a change of policy appears unlikely.
Ibruprofen has gained wide acclaim as a treatment for tendon strains – an ailment that has baffled some of the world’s finest veterinarians for decades.
Melbourne doctor John Daffy, a lifelong racing enthusiast, discovered that ibuprofen had a revolutionary effect on the treatment of human tendon injuries. This advance was then applied to the racing industry via a properly proprietary compounded product.
As a result, many horses have returned to racing and as many as 100 have raced, won and swabbed clean after use of this product. Previously most, if not all, would have been retired.