Dr Craig Suann
Senior Official Veterinary Surgeon
NSW Thoroughbred Racing Board

In any consideration of the implementation of a drug control program, the objectives of such a program need to be identified. The objectives of a drug control program in Harness Racing might include:

1. To ensure that harness racing is conducted with integrity and accountability,

2. To ensure a fair and level playing field for competing horses,

3. To maintain the confidence of the betting public,

4. To ensure the welfare of the competing horses,

5. To satisfy the expectations of the broader community.

On the last point, the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare in August 1991 examined aspects of animal welfare in the racing industry. The Committee canvassed a broad cross-section of industry and community interest groups. Amongst the conclusions of the Committee’s inquiry were that:

1. It was opposed to the use of prohibited substances in racehorses and to the detectable presence of "therapeutic substances" in race day samples,

2. It was opposed to the use of prescription veterinary and medical drugs by unqualified people,

3. It encouraged further and ongoing research into the detection of drugs in racehorses,

4. Heavy penalties should be imposed on those responsible for the administration of illicit, performance-enhancing drugs.

In order to implement a drug control program, there is need to define what is a drug or prohibited substance. In the recently modified Rules of Harness Racing, this is covered in Rules 188 and 188A. Essentially, a prohibited substance is one having pharmacological activity, that is, an action on one or more of the body systems {Rule 188A(1)(a)}. This is further reinforced by the inclusion of an extensive list of pharmacological or drug categories {188A(1)(b)}. There is also provision for a number of thresholds or excepted levels for endogenous and naturally-occurring substances in Rule 188(2). The Rules also cover a number of related matters such as testing; the requirement for horses to be presented free of prohibited substances; evidentiary certificates; possession of drugs, needles and syringes on course; stomach tubing and other devices; possession of drugs; and the disqualification of the horse.

A drug control program is facilitated principally by pre-race testing and post-race testing. On the finding of a prohibited substance in a sample, a Stewards’ inquiry is held, and there are mechanisms for appealing the decisions of the Stewards. There is also an important requirement to educate industry participants to ensure compliance with the Rules and the objectives of the program.

Information on detection times for therapeutic substances has been published for veterinary surgeons by the Australian Equine Veterinary Association (AEVA) in the document the "Detection of Therapeutic Substances in Racing Horses". The data in this document was provided to the AEVA by the Therapeutics Subcommittee of the Australian Racing Board, and has been derived from drug administration trials conducted by the four Australian racing laboratories over a number of years. The detection data has been provided to veterinarians only because veterinarians are the individuals permitted by law to administer, prescribe and/or dispense restricted veterinary drugs, and veterinarians have formal training and qualifications in pharmacology, pharmacokinetics and clinical studies. The AEVA publication contains detection data on a range of legitimate, registered equine veterinary medicines. Detection times are derived from administration trials conducted under specified conditions, and are not absolute withholding periods. Examples of data contained in the publication will be presented.


back to top