Monday 29 April 2013

Anabolic steroids in horses: Sungate, stanozolol and Ben Johnson

Those of you following the latest story [1] about the doping scandal engulfing horse racing in Britain might be amused to know that “Sungate” is none other than Stanozolol – the drug that Ben Johnson used to “win” his 100m Olympic gold in Seoul in 1988. Manufacturers even supply nice glossy leaflets explaining that it is an anabolic androgenic steroid derived from testosterone and boasting that it is much the best at being anabolic (muscle building) rather than androgenic (sex altering) [2]. So even if it was given on the advice of the vet. everyone must have been aware that the horses were being treated with anabolic steroids. Such “therapy” is wide open to abuse and it is therefore completely unacceptable and banned at any time in nearly all sports. In racing the rules vary from country to country. However, what the story seems to reveal is that, at best, there is a cavalier attitude to sports doping in horse racing that is a million miles away from elite Olympic sports. At worst, the industry is wide open to unscrupulous trainers who might wish to exploit this slack attitude [3]. This is not a new story by the way. There is a nice article in 2009 on the use of the same steroid in US thoroughbred racing, focussing at least in part on horse welfare issues [4].

I don’t think we have heard the end of this story in Britain yet, not by a long way.