Organisers of next week's Dubai Camel Racing festival have spoken of their confidence that the sport has been able to rid itself of doping issues.
Ali Saeed bin Suroor, the director of the Dubai Camel Racing Club, said improved testing procedures had helped eradicate the problem.
"Over the last five years doping became an issue and it was clear that the winners were concentrated in a very small group," he said yesterday at the launch of this year's festival. "But after stricter testing and regulations the wins became more evenly spread out."
Despite increased vigilance for any new illegal substances, Bin Suroor insisted the sport remains mostly free of corruption. "In reality, most of the doping cases have come about from bad practices and bad education rather than cheating," he said.
"Sometimes medical advances and lists of banned substances take longer to reach some of the owners of the camels."
The festival, which will run from February 17 to 28 at Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack, will feature 315 races covering several categories of camels, and the prizes will run into the millions of dirhams with 215 cars up for grabs as well as cash prizes for finishers as low as 20th in certain races.
For camel racing's Emirati fan base, and newcomers hoping to experience the sport for the first time, the festival will also provide a "cultural village" and plenty of activities on the sideline with daily chances to win prizes.
The organisers also revealed a new electronic system has streamlined registration for the races, facilitating the process for participants from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries in particular.
The system will now be used for all three major festivals in the region including this one and the subsequent competitions in Abu Dhabi and Qatar.
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