On Tuesday, September 17, 2013, the National Trainers’ Federation’s chief executive, Rupert Arnold, told the press that his constituents expressed serious concern over a potential move by the British Horseracing Authority to implement an anabolic steroids ban.
The ban, which is set to begin on November 1st, proposes to ban the use of steroids on all thoroughbreds that are currently in training, or are about to enter a trainer’s stable. The proposal is similar to one that Australia introduced to its horse racing industry recently. Britain’s horse racing experts believe the ban could act as an exemplar for the rest of horse racing world, as proof that clean and competitive racing can coexist with robust betting market.
The ban places the highest amount of pressure on trainers who are accepting horses into their stables from farms and facilities. Once the trainers accept the horses into their stables, they would be held responsible (or incur any fines) should a horse test positive for steroids. This places the trainers in a rather precarious position, because they usually do not know what diseases or substances the horses were exposed to before entering their stables. Some trainers believe the new policy will be extremely difficult, though not impossible, to implement because most trainers get their horses from such diverse sources.
Although this zero-tolerance approach would likely end the use of anabolic steroids in British horse racing, opportunistic owners looking for that additional edge might turn to designer steroids or substances that the British Horseracing Authority does not presently test for. This has lead those who oppose the ban on anabolic steroids to question the efficacy of the ban.
Horse racing authorities suggest that most trainers are not abusing anabolic steroids in today’s sport. More importantly though, the veterinary care for horses has improved over the past few decades by a considerable margin, meaning that the deleterious effects to horses from anabolic steroid abuse is combated by effective care.
At present, it is difficult to figure out how this comprehensive steroids ban will affect the horse racing betting world. If, as the authorities suggest, anabolic steroid use is not rampant, the ban should have little effect on changing betting strategies.