The decision by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler to Dubai, to unconditionally ban the import and use of steroids in horse-related sports in the UAE is the strongest riposte to the unethical practice of using conduits to gain an unfair advantage in spot.
Drug use is against the very principles on which sport was founded and it takes an individual with prototypical ethics not to fall into the trap of succumbing to diabolical practices that lead to doping.
Shaikh Mohammad is a sportsman extraordinaire and a sports enthusiast of the highest virtues. If anyone understands the pressure of competing at the highest level, and the contrast between success and failure, no one is more qualified than Shaikh Mohammad.
In this context, it is not surprising that a law is being hurriedly drafted to ensure that the practice of giving anabolic steroids to horses will become a criminal offence in the UAE. Steroids were previously permitted in the UAE as a method to help horse’s recovery from serious equine fracture or type two injuries. However, this practice does not fall into line with British racing rules, where the use of the drug has a zero-tolerance policy.
Should horses trained in the UAE, or even those which have temporarily been based in the UAE, go on to compete in Britain, it is understood that they must fall into line with the drug laws that are in place in the country. It can be complicated when a regulation is permitted in one country but not in another, but that’s the peculiar nature of the sport.
This brings us to the argument that perhaps it is time for horse racing to adopt a universal law on the use of anabolic steroids to ensure a level playing field. Australia is a racing jurisdiction that is often mentioned in this unlikely scenario due to the regulations that have been in place for well over a century. There, in the country that has given us two of the finest thoroughbred champions of modern times, the mighty Phar Lap and the incomparable Black Caviar, anabolic steroids are deemed appropriate, so long as the horse is free from traces when it appears on the race track.
However, following the Mahmoud Al Zarouni steroid scandal in Britain, the Aussie bosses appear to have had a change of heart with talk of a possible review of their laws on anabolic steroids. Should that happen, it would be met with widespread delight in places like Hong Kong and Singapore, which adopt the strictest guidelines on drug use, and perhaps even get the Americans to rethink their policy on the controversial and much censured use of Lasix.
But even that was set to change when two-year-old horses at last year’s Breeders’ Cup were not allowed to be injected with the drug that is intended to restrict pulmonary breeding. Although the American racing industry appears to have renegaded on its proposal to extend the ban to all races at its subsequent World Championships, a positive start seems to have been made.
Could Shaikh Mohammad’s determination to rid the UAE of steroid use be the first step towards a steroid-free sport worldwide?