British Horseracing Authority may introduce drug testing on hair samples from horses
Technique is of particular use in detecting the use of anabolic steroids, which have been at the centre of two separate drug-abuse scandals in recent months
The recent steroid scandal at the Godolphin-owned Moulton Paddocks stable in Newmarket run by Mahmood Al Zarooni has led to the BHA looking for new drug detection methods. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Drug tests on hair samples from horses could be added to the weapons deployed against corruption in racing, the British Horseracing Authority said yesterday. The technique is of particular use in detecting the use of anabolic steroids, which have been at the centre of two separate drug-abuse scandals in recent months.
Anabolic steroids are a more pernicious threat to the integrity of racing than many other performance-enhancing substances such as bicarbonate “milkshakes” or painkillers, because the extra muscle growth and general wellbeing that their use promotes can continue to improve performance many weeks or even months after the steroid itself has left the horse’s system.
The hair in a horse’s mane or tail, however, can provide evidence of the substances in its body throughout the time that the hair has taken to grow. As a result, tests on hair samples could prove invaluable in detecting sustained use of steroids, such as that conducted by the disgraced former trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni at the Godolphin-owned Moulton Paddocks stable in Newmarket earlier this year.
“At HFL [Horseracing Forensic Laboratory] Sport Science there is a team whose role is to constantly research methods of improving our sampling techniques,” Robin Mounsey, the BHA’s media manager, said yesterday, “and, if it was deemed an effective method of testing and of benefit to achieving our objectives, then the introduction of hair samples is a possibility. It has been explored in the past and could be incorporated to our rules and procedures in the future.”
In all, 22 horses at Moulton Paddocks tested positive for either ethylestranol or stanozolol, both of which are banned anabolic steroids, during the BHA investigation into Zarooni’s doping programme. Zarooni was banned from racing for eight years and all 22 horses are barred from competition for six months.