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Horsemen Who Plan to Race in California Are Advised to Stop Use of Most Anabolic Steroids Immediately


May 23, 2008     E-mail this page to a friend!

California Horse Racing Board acted Tuesday to reclassify anabolic steroids, so that penalties will be far more severe for anyone using steroids on horses under racing conditions, in a move that CHRB Chairman Richard B. Shapiro said adds to a growing list of efforts by the State of California to protect horses, riders, and the integrity of horse racing.

“This is an easy one,” the chairman later added. “Anabolic steroids have no place in competition sports, including horse racing. Period! End!”

The steroids reclassifications, which will be immediately posted for 45-day public notice prior to a July 17 public hearing at Del Mar, go hand-in-hand with a larger regulatory package of penalties and classification changes. That larger package has been slowly moving through the regulatory process and is expected to be fully in place before the Breeders’ Cup, which will be hosted by the Oak Tree Racing Association at Santa Anita Park this October 24-25.

Both the chairman and Dr. Rick Arthur, the CHRB equine medical director, listed the new anabolic steroids regulations among the steps being taken to protect the integrity of the game and provide for the safest possible racing environment for horses and riders. Towards that end, they enumerated some of the steps that have been taken and continue in practice in California:

  • More extensive pre-race examinations of all horses entered to run. Each horse is examined at a jog and palpated by an official veterinarian, who has an examination history from previous pre-race inspections and post-race evaluations on each horse. These examination cards could be replaced in the near future by a more comprehensive computerized system that eventually could include the entire medical history of each horse. A version of the program was tested during the recent Bay Meadows meet.

  • Increased scrutiny of horses as they make their way to the race. All horses are examined again at the receiving barn and they are observed as they warm up on the track. The stewards, outriders, jockeys, and other racing officials are encouraged to notify the on-site track veterinarian if they observe or suspect any problems with any horse warming up for the race.

  • State-of-the-art drug testing at the Board’s primary laboratory. The Ken Maddy Equine Analytical Laboratory at UC Davis uses the most sensitive and precise instrumental screening available, which can identify more than 800 compounds. The CHRB testing programs are as demanding and sensitive as any in horse racing. All horses also are pre-race tested for carbon dioxide levels to insure a level playing field. The Maddy Lab uses the most advanced methodology for detecting steroid levels above those naturally occurring in the horse, and with the adoption of new regulations, the CHRB is well positioned to monitor the use of steroids.

  • A necropsy program that generates information used to prevent catastrophic injuries in horses. California has the most comprehensive necropsy program in the United States. Early findings by this program at UC Davis led to the installation of nuclear scintigraphy equipment at California racetracks, which is a powerful tool to identify problems at earlier stages. The program also identified horseshoe “toe grabs” as a contributing factor to injuries, which led to the CHRB prohibition of long “toe grabs” in thoroughbred racing. Additional research studies are being undertaken in an effort to prevent injuries to racehorses.


“California has been a shining light for the racing industry,” said Dr. Arthur, while indicating the efforts would continue as the Board identifies additional ways to further protect horses and riders, including probable improvements to veterinarian’s list procedures.

Vice Chairman John Harris agreed, “California has a very level playing field. California has demonstrated its concern about horse welfare.”

Chairman Shapiro added that the effort would be continuing. “In the future we’ll be looking at inbreeding and some of the other possible contributors we might consider as adding to the frailty of racehorses today.”

The Board previously banned all steroids except for boldenone, nandrolone, stanozolol, and testoserone, and established very low threshold levels for those four anabolic steroids, three of which are endogenous or naturally occurring in the horse. Any administration of those steroids close to a race will be detected and will result in a violation. The Board action Tuesday began the process of reclassifying those four anabolic steroids, so that violations will result in the disqualification of the horse and redistribution of the purse, and those involved would face minimum 30-day suspensions for first offenses. This regulatory process should be completed in September.