By: Frank Angst
With a new six-month withdrawal time in place for all anabolic steroids and a ramped-up out-of-competition testing program, Breeders’ Cup has made integrity changes that have received international praise ahead of this year’s World Championships Nov. 3-4 at Del Mar.
One year after the disqualification of Masochistic from his second-place finish in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), after he tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol, Breeders’ Cup has made rule changes that aim to ensure equal footing for all equine competitors and has increased out-of-competition testing—drug testing conducted before the World Championships on likely competitors.
Breeders’ Cup senior vice president for racing, nominations, and on-site operations Dora Delgado said in the past few years that 40%-60% of Breeders’ Cup runners were subjected to out-of-competition testing. This year Breeders’ Cup expects that percentage to surpass 90%. Breeders’ Cup has a coordinator in place to specifically oversee out-of-competition testing and a mix of contracted Breeders’ Cup veterinarians and regulatory veterinarians collecting samples.
“The Breeders’ Cup is on target to test upwards of 90% of all runners,” Delgado said, noting that at least one horse from every trainer’s stable would be tested. “An out-of-competition testing program of this magnitude has never been done before and the cooperation that the Breeders’ Cup has received from multiple racing jurisdictions throughout the U.S. and the world has been unparalleled.”
The disqualification of Masochistic revealed an inconsistency compared with other states in California’s medication rules. The state allowed horses to be treated with stanozolol as long as they went on the vet’s list for 60 days after the administration. This rule was different from the Association of Racing Commissioners International model rule, which required a horse sit out 60 days, but also have a drug test to ensure the substance had completely dissipated from the horse’s system before it was allowed to race. That seemingly slight difference proved to be a big one.
After last year’s World Championships, the ARCI updated its model rule to require a horse who receives an anabolic steroid treatment to sit out of racing for at least six months. But states are not forced to adopt that rule, and even the states that wish to put it in place can take varying amounts of time to fully adopt it. Other states may tweak the model rule and still others may never adopt it.
Knowing those potential inconsistencies in the state-by-state regulation of horse racing, the Breeders’ Cup put a rule in place that matches the ARCI standard requiring a horse who receives an anabolic steroid treatment sit out of racing for at least six months. The rule allows Breeders’ Cup to avoid any of the state-to-state variance in the standard.
“In an effort to ensure a level playing field for both international and stateside horses, Breeders’ Cup has elected to have a six-month withdrawal period for anabolic steroids for any horse competing in the Championships,” Delgado said. “This is to help ensure a level of integrity that all horses competing in the Championships are true to form and free of any effects of anabolic steroids.”
The updated policy and extensive out-of-competition testing conducted by Breeders’ Cup recently were praised by International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities.
“I welcome the move by the Breeders’ Cup organizers to introduce protocols, which conform to the Article 6E restrictions on the use of anabolic steroids and to conduct out-of-competition testing, and I will be encouraging the racing commissions in North America to follow this lead,” said IFHA chairman Louis Romanet.
Through Oct. 20, 140 potential Breeders’ Cup starters had been tested in the out-of-competition program, a list that includes the 49 winners of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge races in the United States, most of the winners of the international Challenge races, and a number of other potential starters. The tested horses are trained by 62 U.S.-based trainers and 10 European-based trainers.
With Breeders’ Cup funding the tests, samples were collected from horses in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, as well as in Canada, England, France, and Ireland. Horses will continue to be tested until the Nov. 3-4 races.
For this year’s Breeders’ Cup, out-of-competition testing began in August, focusing on Challenge race winners, but also included other horses who participated in those “Win and You’re In” events. All samples are immediately sent to the University of California-Davis Ken L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Lab, which is certified by both the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the IFHA.
As for the international samples, a number of other IFHA recognized labs handled the work.
“The executive council of the IFHA has unanimously reaffirmed its commitment to a stringent anti-doping policy and specifically endorsed Breeders’ Cup’s updated protocols put in place in advance of the 2017 World Championships.”
Besides looking for anabolic steroids, the out-of-competition tests also screen for blood-doping agents, growth hormones, venoms, and other non-therapeutic substances.
Delgado said the expanded out-of-competition testing program is an example of Breeders’ Cup’s commitment to integrity.
“The primary responsibility of Breeders’ Cup is to demonstrate to the world that the Breeders’ Cup World Championships are a showcase for the amazing talents of the Thoroughbred racehorse,” Delgado said. “This unmatched level of safety, security, and integrity must be the core of the Championships and Breeders’ Cup is committed to taking a lead in setting this bar high. The expanded out-of-competition testing done this year is just another step.”
Delgado said Breeders’ Cup worked directly with the California Horse Racing Board, UC Davis, and other industry stakeholders to develop the out-of-competition program.