By: Patrick Bartley
Racing Victoria has resisted making changes to its drug-free policy, despite calls for a relaxation in the rule over positive swabs for the anti-inflammatory substance ibuprofen.
Racing Victoria announced after its monthly board meeting that it sympathises with owners of horses that are currently continuing to return positive swabs long after they have been taken off the medication.
Signoff and smart local galloper Rib Eye – as well as 20 other racehorses – have been returning positive swabs to ibuprofen, making racing in the Victorian drug-free state a near impossibility. “We sympathise with the owners of the small group of affected horses from the one rehabilitation regime, however, Racing Victoria is committed to enforcing the rules of racing by governing a sport that sees all horses race free of the effects of drugs,” Racing Victoria chairman of stewards Terry Bailey said.
“We understand that the use of this substance for the treatment of tendon injuries in racehorses is a complex issue because of prolonged and unpredictable clearance of the drug, so we have explored all available options for the affected connections.
“However, the parent drug ibuprofen is being detected in samples obtained from these horses at levels that make it impossible to differentiate between a recent treatment and a level caused by the leaching of the substance from a tissue storage site.
“Ibuprofen is a prohibited substance because of its potential to mask the pain and loss of function associated with inflammation, which may increase the risk of injury to both the horse and riders during racing.
“It also has the potential to improve the racing performance of a sore horse. It is for these reasons that all non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are prohibited on race day. There is also concern that prolonged high-dose administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, may have effects on the long-term health of the horse.”
Fairfax Media understands the current ibuprofen positives in horses such as Signoff are related to treatment at a Gippsland rehabilitation facility where there are concerns over the type of ibuprofen used and the dose and duration of ibuprofen treatment.
The ruling by Racing Victoria on Thursday may spell the end of the racing careers of horses caught in the ibuprofen web. Fairfax Media understands two horses continue to test positive 12 months after the treatment ceased.
“In the immediate future we will continue to work with trainers in facilitating elective testing on the small group of affected horses, however, it will remain the decision of the trainer whether they are satisfied that their horse is free of the substance when presented to race,” RV said.