California horse racing toughens up on steroid use

CHRB takes steps toward crackdown on steroids

By Brent Schrotenboer

May 24, 2008

California horse racing has taken a cue from pro football and major league baseball – moving this week to rid its sport of anabolic steroids.

Under regulations approved this week by the California Horse Racing Board, all steroids would be reclassified as among the three most serious drug categories. This would bring tougher penalties for positive tests, such as disqualification, redistribution of purses and 30-day suspensions for first offenses.

Previously, steroids were legal to a certain degree and were classified among drugs considered therapeutic in nature. If caught, perpetrators were subject only to light punishment such as fines.

“To ensure you do not have a positive test, the time to stop administering steroids is now,” board Chairman Richard Shapiro wrote in a letter yesterday to California horse owners, trainers and breeders.

The CHRB hopes the regulations are in effect by the Breeder’s Cup at Santa Anita on Oct. 24-25. Before being enacted, the reclassifications must be posted for 45-day public notice before a July 17 public hearing at Del Mar. Testing with warnings is to begin July 1.

U.S. horse racing has been behind the curve of other sports when it comes to banning steroids, mostly because they are more accepted in the sport’s culture. About one-third of race horses are geldings and have their natural source of steroids removed.

“I’d imagine in the NFL, if a third of their linemen were geldings, they’d have a different attitude about steroids than they do today,” said Rick Arthur, the CHRB’s equine medical director.

The United States is the world’s only major racing jurisdiction that doesn’t ban anabolic steroids. Such regulations are determined by states. Earlier this week, Kentucky racing officials discussed a steroid ban there.

Under the California regulations, four steroids would be permitted under certain thresholds: boldenone, nandrolone, stanozolol and testosterone. That’s because most of those are naturally occurring to some degree. Any trace of other steroids would be banned, Arthur said.

Find article online at SignonSanDiego.

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