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Tuesday 01, Jul 2008

  Use of steroids on horses might end soon

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horse_steroidsUse of anabolic steroids in thoroughbred racing might be outlawed by January next year. This is likely if the recommendation of a safety panel pushed through. The panel was established by the North America’s Thoroughbred registry, The Jockey Club.

“Hopefully, we can say this is the last year horses were racing on steroids,” said Stuart S. Janney III, chairman of the committee.

Aside from a sweeping ban of the use of anabolic steroids, other recommendations made by the panel are banning of toe-grabs and prohibiting jockeys from striking horses with a riding crop with an arm raised above shoulder height. Toe-grabs are horseshoes known to cause injuries in horses.

The three safety proposals are being endorsed by several stakeholders in the sport.

“Anabolic steroids have no valid purpose in the training and racing of the equine athlete,” said Bill Casner, chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. Alex Waldrop, president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and Bill Farish, chairman of Breeders’ Cup Ltd., also issued statements endorsing the panel’s recommendations.

It is also expected that Congress might take action in said issue. A House Energy subcommittee is due to hear testimony from key players in the industry about anabolic steroids as well as other safety concerns.

Anabolic steroids aid in fast recovery of horses from injury. They are also known to stimulate appetite, weight gain, hair/coat growth, among others. The two most commonly used anabolic steroids in thoroughbred racing are Equipoise (boldenone) and Winstrol (stanozolol). These two steroids reportedly increase protein synthesis, a process necessary for ideal tissue building to occur.

Currently, anabolic steroids use on horses is still considered a legal practice in three states where the Triple Crown is held – Kentucky, Maryland, and New York.

Rick Dutrow, the trainer of Big Brown, has openly admitted that his horses are administered with stanozolol every month. Big Brown is the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes this year.

Monday 30, Jun 2008

  Use of anabolic steroids on horses hard to determine

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horse_steroidsThe recent testimony of Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg at a Congressional hearing drove home the point that it is very difficult to determine if equine athletes are on anabolic steroids.

In humans, the tell-tale signs are more obvious – acne breakout, incredible physique on both in male and female users, hair thinning on males, hair growth on females, plus an enhanced performance in the playing field. Most of these physical indications of steroid use do not apply to horses.

In said hearing, Van Berg compared horse training to “chemical warfare” and that there is dearth of scientific proof that would suggest that anabolic steroids make better, stronger, and faster horses.

Dr. Scot Waterman, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, seemed to agree with the trainer. “It’s an impossible question for us to even answer. A .01 (percent) change in performance would alter the outcome of a 1-mile race 50 percent of the time. That is an impossible change to measure with scientific study,” Waterman said.

However, the issue gets more contentious as anecdotal evidence suggests that anabolic steroids could act as performance boosters.

Rick Dutrow openly admitted that all of his horses are administered with anabolic steroid Winstrol (stanozolol) every month. This drug is not banned in three states where the Triple Crown is held. Dutrow is the trainer of Big Brown, who recently won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness races of the Triple Crown.

Big Brown performed poorly in the Belmont Stakes and some speculated that the reason was because Dutrow did not administer the horse with steroids in the 5-week interval between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.

“Everybody is trying to figure out why Big Brown didn’t run,” said Dr. Don Catlin, president of the Anti-Doping Research Institute. “I don’t know why. But I do know if I’m on steroids and if you stop them a couple of weeks ago, I’m going through withdrawal and I’m not going to feel like running. But you can’t test for that.”

Monday 23, Jun 2008

  Steroids still reigns Belmont Stakes

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horse_steroidsCome Saturday at Belmont Stakes in New York expect a winner who may be running on anabolic steroids; this despite the recent public outcry on the use of steroids on equines.

Among those competing on anabolic steroids is Big Brown, the winner of the 134th Kentucky Derby. It was during this race that the tragic end of Eight Belles happened. Eight Belles was euthanized on track after she suffered injury after finishing second to Big Brown in said race. Her injury was rumored to be caused by improper medication.

The autopsy report on Eight Belles, however, showed she was negative for steroids. Same report said that she had no diseases or pre-existing bone abnormalities before her breakdown. The other 19 horses in the Derby were also tested for improper medication levels and the results came back negative.

The excerpt from International Herald Tribune article reads: “Among the nine trainers who are planning to run horses in the Belmont, only Rick Dutrow, the trainer of Big Brown, and Barclay Tagg, who trains Tale of Ekati, said their horses would race on steroids. Dallas Stewart, the trainer of Macho Again, said he had yet to decide whether his horse would receive them. The trainers Todd Pletcher and Nick Zito would not comment on whether their horses would.”

Anabolic steroids are widely used in the industry for bulking up young horses in sales. In competitions, these compounds are known to enhance appearance and performance of show horses and racehorses. Use of anabolic steroids on horses is legal in 28 US states; however, with the recent controversies, it is expected that many states will adopt a prohibitive stance on such practice.

Opponents of a blanket ban on steroids worry that this may prove detrimental instead of beneficial to horses. Steroids, they say, are necessary to aid in horses’ recovery from different conditions, which include abdominal and respiratory illnesses, and physical injuries. Further, they say there is no evidence that this group of drugs make horses run faster.

Tuesday 17, Jun 2008

  Ban of steroid use on horses expected

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With the upcoming Triple Crown race at Belmont Stakes in New York this Saturday, many racing stockholders are holding their breath, not just for the winner but for the news regarding anabolic steroid use on equines.

The use of steroids to enhance the appearance and performance of horses has been recently spotlighted because of the unfortunate incident of Eight Belles. The champion filly was euthanized on the track during the 134th Kentucky Derby held at Churchill Downs on May 3. In said event, Eight Belles has finished second to Big Brown.

Speculations abound that the Belmont Stakes could be the last legally steroid-fueled race. With the Congress’ scheduled hearing this month regarding steroid use and other concerns on horse safety, the bet is it would be for the total ban of this practice.

Use of steroids is still considered legal in many states, although it may face a complete prohibition through the initiative of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. Before the consortium’s action, steroids are banned only in state of Iowa. This year, however, nine other states issued bans.

Anabolic steroids are used on horses primarily to speed up recovery of horses suffering from illnesses, injury, or extreme stress. These compounds promote erythropoiesis (red blood cell production), protein synthesis, healthy appetite, among other things.

According Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing, steroids “typically are used in horses for the mental attitude.” He added that “they make them more aggressive horses, able to withstand the rigors of training a bit more.”

Winstrol, one of four steroids approved by the FDA for use on horses, is advertised as a substance that corrects nitrogen imbalance without the undesirable effects of unmanageable behavior, aggressive tendencies, and impaired reproductive activity.   Winstrol is also one of the popular brands of anabolic steroids used by many athletes. Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson has reportedly used Winstrol to enhance his performance on the track.

Thursday 29, May 2008

  Steroids Use in Horses

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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.