horse_steroidsThe recent incident in the Triple Crown on May 3 has spotlighted the use of anabolic steroids in horse racing once again. Champion filly Eight Belles has suffered two broken front ankles after finishing second in the Derby; and several minutes later, she has to be euthanized on the track.

In the statistics provided by Kentucky’s state veterinarian Lafe Nichols, DVM, it reported that in 2007, there were 45 fatal injuries in races conducted at the Kentucky tracks. Non-fatal-injuries were 81. Further, Nichols said that 23% of the 23,309 horses started at the same tracks have tested positive for medical violations. And of the 1,586 horses tested for the prohibited TCO2 only one was tested positive. TCO2, commonly called milkshake, is a mixture of bicarbonate and/or other alkaline substances that is fed to a horse before it competes. The mixture produces higher levels of carbon dioxide that delays the buildup of lactic acid in a horse’s muscles and is believed to increase stamina.

Why are anabolic steroids used on horses? The characteristics of Equipoise (boldenone) and Winstrol (stanozolol), two of the most commonly used steroids on horses, can explain why these compounds are popular in the equine industry.

These two steroids reportedly increase protein synthesis, a chemical process ideal for the body’s muscle-muscle building activity. Winstrol’s advertised properties are promotion of appetite, weight gain, stamina, hair/coat growth, and tissue healing. Further, it is promoted as a substance that corrects nitrogen imbalance without the undesirable effects of unmanageable behavior, aggressive tendencies, and impaired reproductive activity.

Equipoise’s advertisement, on the other hand, states that this drug is ideal for lean body weight, appetite, and general disposition of horses.

In humans, anabolic steroids (including veterinary-grade compounds such Equipoise and Winstrol) are popular among bodybuilders. They are widely used because they are believed to improve physique and performance. Their use, however, is considered to be illegal in most sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee.