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THE LEGAL ASPECTS OF EQUINE RACING CHEMISTRY
The definition of a prohibited substance .
Evidence of a prohibited substance .
Racing laboratories in Australia and New Zealand .
High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) .
Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS) .
Confirmation of the identity of drugs .
The use of thresholds for certain compounds.
Thresholds for therapeutic substances .
Thresholds for substances inseparable from feed stuffs and
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Allen Stenhouse completed a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in 1970 at theUniversity of Western Australia. In 1976, he completed a Master of Business Administration.
From 1971 to 1987, he held the position of Chemist/Research Officer at the Forensic ScienceLaboratory of the Western Australia Chemistry Centre. In 1988, Mr Stenhouse was appointedto his present position of Chief of the Centre’s Racing Chemistry Laboratory.
Mr Stenhouse is a member of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, the Association ofOfficial Racing Chemists, The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists, and theAustralian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society.
Jean Ralston has worked at the Racing Chemistry Laboratory of the Western AustraliaChemistry Centre since 1986. Ms Ralston graduated from Murdoch University with a Bachelorof Veterinary Medicine and Surgery in 1985 and has also completed a Bachelor of Sciencewith majors in Microbiology and Immunology at Monash University in 1980 and VeterinaryBiology at Murdoch University in 1983.
Ms Ralston is a member of the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society, theAustralian Veterinary Association, the Australian Equine Veterinary Association and an affiliatemember of the Association of Official Racing Chemists.
Any opinions expressed by the authors in this chapter are their own and not those of thelaboratories or clients for whom they work.
THE RATIONALE FOR DRUG TESTING
The most obvious reason for drug testing in the professional sports involving
equine and canine species is to ensure that animals run on their own merits and, hence, prizes
are awarded appropriately and betting frauds involving druggings do not occur. In fact, the old
rules of racing were formulated on the basis that the detection of drugs that “could affect the
performance, courage or stamina of a horse” would lead to a penalty. While in
practice–because of the wording–this rule was almost impossible to enforce, it does carry the
essence of what “doping control” is all about.
There are other, less obvious, reasons why the various clubs and associations involved inrunning these sports have anti-drugging rules: (a) the safety of the competitors (both horse andrider); (b) the prevention of cruelty to animals; (c) keeping the non-racing public “on side” bykeeping the sport “clean” and, lastly, (d) drug-free racing ensures the breeding stock of thefuture is free of defects that may be masked by drugs.
The reasons that drugs are given to competing animals can be summarised as follows:
(1) To enhance the performance of the animal. The types of drugs that can be used are
narcotic analgesics (buprenorphine, etorphine, morphine, pentazocine etc), centralnervous system stimulants (caffeine, amphetamine types etc) and many other drugsfrom various classes. Anabolic steroids probably fit into this section because they canincrease muscle bulk and the aggression of the animal.
(2) To decrease the performance of the animal. By slowing down a “favourite”, a betting
coup can be made on the second favourite or the betting price on the horse willimprove in the next race. The types of drugs used are chloral hydrate (a “mickeyfinn”), barbiturates, benzodiazepines and other sedatives.
(3) To maintain the performance of an animal that is sore or lame. Examples of the drugs
used are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (phenylbutazone, flunixin, aspirinand meclofenamic acid) and the steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (the corticosteroids:cortisol, dexamethasone, methylprednisolone etc). These drugs can also be used tomanipulate the performance of lame horses, by using the drug for one race and notothers.
(4) As legitimate therapy. Sometimes, with bad advice or lack of advice, drugs can be
administered for legitimate reasons but at a time too close to racing. This is mostcommonly seen with anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotic drugs containingprocaine.
Naturally, these categories are very simplistic and may overlap. Many drugs are dose-dependent for their effect, ie, at different doses, the same drug can have different effects.
Caffeine in small doses is commonly used as a tonic to increase a horse’s appetite betweenraces; whereas in large doses, it is unquestionably an excellent stimulant. The narcoticbutorphanol in high doses has a legitimate use as an analgesic (it is particularly useful for thetreatment of colic in horses); however, in low doses, it has a stimulant effect and may beadministered to race horses to improve their performance. Hence, it can be seen that justbecause a drug falls into a certain class it may not have been given for the effect normallyassociated with that class of drug.
RULES ON DRUG USE IN RACING
Rules used for the control of drugs must first of all define what a drug or prohibited
substance is. This may be done in a number of ways:
(1) Listing the names of all prohibited substances. Agriculture Canada, the body
responsible for racing in Canada (Agriculture Canada, 1991), does this with theinclusion of some additional clauses to encompass other drugs which may not be onthe list. Any drug that is not on the list is permissible. The International OlympicCommittee (IOC) has a similar rule but includes a “and related compounds” clause toremove the necessity to list every drug: International Olympic Committee (1990).
(2) Having an unspecified list of compounds specified by their effect on the animal and
then excluding certain allowable drugs. This is how most racing clubs defineprohibited substances, and the Australian Rules of Racing 1 (for thoroughbred racing)illustrate this (see below, [75.70]).
[75.70] The definition of a prohibited substance
The Australian Rules of Racing 1 (AR1) state:
“Prohibited substance” means any substance having a direct or an indirect action on thecentral or peripheral nervous system, the cardio-vascular system, the respiratory system, thealimentary digestive system, the musculo-skeletal system or the uro-genital system of ahorse. Prohibited substances include analgesics, anti-histamines, anti-inflammatory agents,blood coagulants, diuretics, hormones and their synthetic counterparts, corticosteroids,anabolic steroids, local anaesthetics, muscle relaxants and tranquillisers. Prohibitedsubstances also include vitamins administered by injection.
This definition of prohibited substances (AR1) is similar in both turf and harness racingthroughout Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the United Kingdom. The definition is quitecomprehensive and there are very few exclusions. Countries having such a definition call theirracing “drug free”.
The rules of racing cover far more classes of drugs than do the IOC rules. The use ofcorticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and some local anaesthetics is allowed,in some instances, in human competition where there are no concerns of cruelty and coveringup injuries for profit.
It should also be noted that certain States in the United States of America allow the use ofsome non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (phenylbutazone, flunixin and meclofenamic acid)and a diuretic (lasix) in racing. Depending on the State, only some of these may be allowed,but usually not in combination. Their use is regulated by specified blood levels or by holding
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