Racing: Worldwide war to keep on top of drug cheats

In terms of how the authorities attempt to detect illegal drugs, Vine said there were a number of potential sources. Photo / Thinkstock
In terms of how the authorities attempt to detect illegal drugs, Vine said there were a number of potential sources. Photo / Thinkstock

Racing authorities believe a worldwide network of laboratories is helping to beat the drug cheats of the equine world.

The good guys have been fighting the bad guys since 1903, when Britain's Jockey Club banned all drugs which could affect the speed of a horse after they became aware of cocaine being used to stimulate horses and heroin as a painkiller.

In the years since, the names have become more exotic, with heroin and cocaine replaced by Blue Magic, Elephant Juice and Erythropoietin (EPO).

And this spring, five trainers in Victoria have been charged with either administering or trying to administer treatment on race day. The practice is illegal.

But Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey and Racing and Analytical Services consultant John Vine say it's getting harder to gain an advantage.

"We have a very stringent testing regime with very good laboratory resources. Anything that appears in any part of the racing world is well and truly on our radar," Bailey told the Herald Sun.

A case in point was the recent discovery of the secretion from the South American waxy mountain tree frog being used in United States racing as an extremely powerful painkiller.

According to Vine, the substance known as "frog juice" was known within a day of being discovered in the US.

"Through a worldwide network we keep in touch and, as soon as something new bobs up, whether it be overseas or in our own racing, we alert each other," Vine said.

"Then you have to find ways to detect it. There have been concerns about frog juice recently, so we bought some of the pure material [dermorphin] and put it into our system so we can test for it."

In terms of how the authorities attempt to detect illegal drugs, Vine said there were a number of potential sources.

"We keep an eye on internet sites, particularly on sports that will try things first, such as cycling and body-building," Vine said.

In other Australian news, the feature mile race of the Sydney autumn carnival has emerged as the target for Saturday's controversial Rosehill winner Scream Machine.

The Jason Coyle-trained Scream Machine will be given his chance next preparation to get to the A$2 million group one Doncaster (1600m) in April. Scream Machine made it back-to-back Rosehill wins when he won a 1900m event at Rosehill on Saturday on protest.

Coyle believes Scream Machine will continue to improve and will return a better horse next preparation, opening up the prospect of the Doncaster.

"We'll definitely throw in a nomination for the Doncaster and we'll see where he sits when he comes back," Coyle said. "The whole time along I've always said 'next preparation', and we've been patient." AAP

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