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Jockey Kent Desormeaux guides Big Brown, second from the left, out of Turn 4 and on to victory at the 2008 Kentucky Derby. Trainer Richard Dutrow later said he gave his horse Winstrol, which contains an anabolic steroid, on the 15th day of every month to help him recover faster from wear and tear of training.
Jockey Kent Desormeaux guides Big Brown, second from the left, out of Turn 4 and on to victory at the 2008 Kentucky Derby. Trainer Richard Dutrow later said he gave his horse Winstrol, which contains an anabolic steroid, on the 15th day of every month to help him recover faster from wear and tear of training.

As US, Hong Kong and Australia examine issue, now is the time to ban steroids

Of all places, the United States appears to be taking the steroid situation most seriously ... The racing jurisdiction is giving serious debate as to whether the sport should hand over the power to regulate testing to the US Anti-Doping Agency, explains Geoffrey Riddle.

If there can be one positive to come out of the Godolphin doping saga it is that the actions of Mahmoud Al Zarooni, as reported by the British Horseracing Authority, have initiated the possibility that anabolic steroids could be banned from world racing.

If international competition is to grow further, led by Meydan Racecourse's commitment to the Dubai World Cup Carnival that fosters global participation, there can be no place in the sport for performance-enhancing drugs.

Anabolic steroids, in particular.

The veterinary benefit of getting a horse back on to the track from serious injury fast enough to rescue a racing career does not outweigh the underlying ethos of sport in general: fair play on a level playing field.

Anabolic steroids can produce significant muscle growth in training, but in the wrong dosages it can boost muscle development to such a level that thoroughbreds cannot race.

And, as with humans, anabolic steroids can produce behavioural issues in horses.

For humans to experience side-effects that change their personality while on substances is one thing. For a human to do this to another animal raises moral questions.

Racing has arrived at a tipping point whereby we can look at the sport in a "micro" manner and indulge owners who want to resuscitate a particular horse's career ultimately for stud purposes and their personal gain.

Or look at the bigger picture and be in a position to present the sport across the world in an alluring, drug-free package.

As the fallout to Al Zarooni's actions continues, across the world there have been those who have picked up the flag of steroid-free sport and planted it in the ground with intent.

Of all places, the United States appears to be taking the situation most seriously. As recently as 2008 Richard Dutrow revealed he gave Winstrol, which contains stanozolol, to the Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown on the 15th of every month.

Stanozolol is the same anabolic steroid that Al Zarooni was responsible for administering to horses under his care and the one that turned Ben Johnson's eyes that cowardly yellow for the Seoul 1988 Olympic 100-metre dash.

The racing jurisdiction that simply will not give up Lasix is on the cusp of a serious debate as to whether the sport should hand over the power to regulate testing to the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada).

This is the independent organisation that charged Lance Armstrong, the cyclist, of doping and conspiracy, and it oversees the anti-doping procedures for American and Pan American Olympic sport, as well as Paralympic sport.

The US senator Tom Udall and the congressman Joe Pitts are expected to introduce legislation in Congress this coming week. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act would enable Usada to develop rules across America on prohibited substances and lay out coherent national testing and penalty programmes. The Hong Kong Jockey Club have already stated they are to place the issue of anabolic steroids on the international agenda. Their lead has been followed by Australia after the Australian Racing Board stated this week it would review its use of anabolic steroids.

The public perception of performance-enhancing drug use has changed dramatically, even since Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last year.

This is racing's moment to make a statement, and one that resounds around the globe.

 

sports@thenational.ae

 

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