Racing’s chief vet estimates about 40 per cent of trainers use steroids on their horses, as Black Caviar’s handler Peter Moody hit back at his British counterparts over their queries whether his wonder mare might have been treated with anabolic steroids before her Royal Ascot win.
Racing Victoria’s head of veterinary services, Brian Stewart, says that the controlling body does not have systems in place to monitor the use of steroids so the best he can do is produce a ”guesstimate” on usage.
”Perhaps a guesstimate might be that around 10 per cent of trainers might use them consistently and perhaps 40 per cent from time to time. I can’t say with any certainty, so these figures have to be taken on that basis,” Stewart said on Wednesday, while he was supervising race swabs at the carnival.
”For some trainers it might be custom to give their horse an anabolic to help it recover and build up when it goes for a spell, while some others might use them on a more regular basis on horses that are not eating or perceived not to be doing as well to help them build condition or recover … they build up strength and muscle.”
Moody, Black Caviar’s trainer, was unhappy with any suggestion his champion might have been treated with steroids, stressing in media reports that she had been tested when she arrived in Britain and then shortly before winning the group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Lee Freedman, who sent Miss Andretti to win the Kings Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2007, was equally aggrieved at British suggestions Australian gallopers might have had an unfair advantage.
He took to Twitter on Tuesday: ”Some Brits need to pipe down re Aussie horses at Ascot and not tar all. My Ascot winner was never given steroids.”
There also has been concern as to whether, or how much, breeders use anabolic steroids to boost the appearance of yearlings before they are sent to auction.
Stewart says yearling sales are outside the governing body’s jurisdiction so it is ”impossible to get a handle” on the issue. ”You get anecdotal reports that they are used, but then the breeders say they are definitely not using them.”
The Australian Trainers Association says it is prepared to talk ”in a reasonable way” with authorities about steroids in Australia, where they are allowed ”out of competition” as long as they are not present in a horse’s system on race day.
Association president Colin Alderson, the veteran Cranbourne handler, said at Warrnambool on Wednesday that steroid use was not a major issue in Australia and no one could remember the last time a horse tested positive to an anabolic.
Association chief executive John Alducci said his organisation had been in touch with the Australian Racing Board to talk about the issue.
”It’s something we need to have a sensible discussion about and I have spoken to Peter McGauran [board chief executive] today. We are happy to talk about it and see what the view of the entire industry is. But we need to find a sensible position for Australian racing, not to react to something happening overseas.”