sport

BHA enhances anti-doping policy

A doubling of testing-in-training samples taken is one of the measures announced by the British Horseracing Authority.

The number of post-race testing samples is to increase by 20 per cent, while the BHA said an extended but renegotiated contract with the Horseracing Forensic Laboratory will result in lower per-unit sampling costs.

Other measure include an increased investment in research including the continuation of hair sample analysis techniques in order to explore the feasibility of regulatory hair sampling.

The sport has been in the headlines this year after well-publicised cases involving trainers Mahmood Al Zarooni and Gerard Butler saw the pair disqualified for eight years and five years respectively.

BHA chief executive Paul Bittar said: "The two high-profile investigations this year have brought BHA's Anti-Doping and Medication Control Policy into the spotlight, and highlighted the need for an appropriately robust strategy towards doping control.

"The objective is that via enhancements to our testing programme and strategy, as well as the significant penalties handed to those who have breached the Rules this year, we increase the deterrent against the use of prohibited substances."

A review of the existing policy was instigated in May 2013 and considered all aspects, including the overall strategy towards doping control, budget allocated, number and balance of each method of testing, screening techniques, the contract with HFL and the direction of research and development.

The revised policy will become effective as of January 1, 2014 and will be reviewed quarterly to assess its effectiveness.

Bittar said: "In an ideal world there would be no limit to the amount of testing we conduct, but we are constrained with regard to both budget and resources. However, we have secured an increase in the budget available for 2014 and an effective strategy is not simply measured by the number of samples taken, but also the methods adopted to ensure that the right samples are being taken at the right time.

"While both of the high-profile investigations in 2013 arose from positive samples detected in the equivalent of out-of-competition testing rather than post race, we do consider testing-in-training to be the area where a significant increase is warranted.

"Modern day anti-doping strategies across all sports are increasingly focussing on out-of-competition testing as trends move towards substances that are administered well in advance of the performance to allow athletes to compete 'substance free' on the day. As such BHA's anti-doping strategy for 2014 has an increased emphasis on testing-in-training.

"The policy's objective is to deter and prevent horses from competing under the influence of prohibited substances and so ensure a level playing field for all of the sport's participants. We are confident that there is no underlying endemic problem on this front within horse racing and we hope our enhanced programme will serve to retain the confidence of both participants and those who bet on the sport.

"It has been a challenging year but we hope that the enhancements made to our testing policies, the tightening of certain rules and the advancements led by BHA in establishing an international minimum standard on anabolic steroid use, has, as a result, made the sport a better environment both in Britain and worldwide."