sport

BHA tighten steroid policy

Any horse to have been administered anabolic steroids will be unable to race for 14 months after the British Horseracing Authority announced stringent changes to its policy on prohibited substances.

In the wake of last year's Mahmood Al Zarooni scandal, when Certify was one of more than a dozen horses suspended from racing for six months, as well as the case of Newmarket trainer Gerard Butler and the Sungate treatment, the BHA compiled a major project on the topic and is aiming for it to be implemented by January 1 next year.

Last November, a group including director of raceday operations and regulation Jamie Stier, chief veterinary officer Jenny Hall and Professor Sandy Love of the University of Glasgow started to consult throughout the industry and used extensive scientific research to produce their paper.

BHA chief executive Paul Bittar, who chaired a press conference announcing the changes, spoke of the need for a "level playing field" in Britain, and his hopes for a harmonisation of rules over steroid use throughout the world.

A horse bred in Britain must be registered within 12 months of birth, as they cannot be administered with an anabolic steroid at any point in its life.

Those that are imported must be registered with a clean sample within three months, although those spending their previous 12 months in France, Ireland and Germany will be treated as British as those countries are bringing their policy into line with Britain.

Likewise, Irish, French and German runners can arrive as they wish, but there are wider implications for raider from other overseas nations.

All other foreign runners must be in Britain, and the BHA be aware of their whereabouts, for 14 days in advance of their race to allow for testing.

This would include, for example, the top Spanish and Italian horses, which usually arrive soon before races.

Bittar said that "it will impact on a small amount of numbers from certain jurisdictions" but that ideally, some form of agreement would be put into place so they could run, and have been tested, without needing to be in Britain for so long. As it stands, they would have to follow the new system.

"For the policy to be implemented, we need to change some rules," said Bittar.

"The current rules will not allow the policy to be set out, and it requires consultation with stakeholders. We've got the support of stakeholders and the rules committee and we're confident it can be implemented.

"The rules we had before were fairly tight but after the two cases we had with Godolphin and Sungate, it was an opportunity to produce an advanced policy as well as working with other jurisdictions.

"We saw the opportunity to use the cases we had to raise the bar at an international level."

The other notable news concerns the BHA being able to test horses in Britain at any time, regardless of physical location, which would include the time they were not at licensed training establishments.

Adam Brickell, director of integrity, risk and legal, said that "if the horse is not in a licensed training yard, the owner is responsible - but this does all need to be worked out in detail".

In his initial statement, Bittar said: "The need for an international position that sets robust minimum standards on use of anabolic steroids in horseracing was one that was pushed by BHA and a number of other key racing jurisdictions last year and resulted in the IFHA adopted position.

"The enhanced, zero-tolerance policy announced today, which exceeds the international minimum standard, has the objective of ensuring that British racing remains at the forefro nt of tackling an issue that ranks amongst the biggest threats faced by any world sport.

"It is intended to ensure that the industry, racing and betting public can be reassured that all races which take place on British soil are done so on a level playing field. It is also hoped that this will be another step towards global harmonisation across the sport and that the leadership role BHA has adopted on this issue can result in those nations that have not yet adopted the minimum standards following suit.

"Our previous policy already met the minimum standards, and today's announcement goes further, ensuring British Racing retains its pre-eminent position in respect of how drug use is regulated within the sport.

"After a challenging 16 months, as a result of the actions taken already by several nations, the sport globally is now in a much better place when it comes to the regulation of anabolic steroids."

In response, a statement from the National Trainers Federation said: "Throughout the BHA's consultation, the NTF strongly endorsed a tough stance on the use of anabolic steroids. Therefore we support the measures announced today for a zero-tolerance policy, which lays the ground for all horses to compete on level terms on British racecourses.

"Specifically, we support an extended stand-down period for horses that have tested positive and no provision for a therapeutic use exemption.

"The NTF would also encourage other jurisdictions to adopt similar rules for making horses available for testing prior to entering training so British trainers can purchase horses born and raised in other countries confident in the knowledge those horses have never been treated with anabolic steroids.

"It is clear that implementation of the zero tolerance policy requires a number of rule changes and a new approach to information about the location of horses in pre-training or out of training. We look forward to being involved in assisting the BHA with the development of those rules later this year."