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New law on steroids in equestrian sports hailed as tough

UAE veterans Selvaratnam and Buckley appeal for level playing field

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani /Gulf News Archives
Trainer Dhruba Selvaratnam and former Grand National-winning jockey and racing administratorPat Buckley have backed the ban on all steroids in UAE horse racing.
Gulf News

Dubai: Veteran UAE horsemen have hailed the initiative by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to outlaw the use of steroids in all equestrian sports in the UAE.

Shaikh Mohammad, one of the world’s most influential race horse owners and breeders, issued a decree on Thursday that makes the import, trade and use of anabolic steroids in equine sport a criminal offence which is punishable by law.

Trainer Dhruba Selvaratnam, who helped pioneer the development of UAE horse racing in the early nineties, believes that the sport can only benefit from the legislation.

“Steroids are bad in any form. Shaikh Mohammad has done the right thing to categorically ban it’s import in the UAE,” he said on Saturday.

“Horse racing will be a much better sport without the use of certain substances. I don’t think it has ever been an issue in the UAE, where the regulatory bodies have adopted the strictest procedures. However, I think that the problem is more of a global one and that all countries should get in line together [to] deal with it.

“I know that there is more tolerance towards steroid use in Australia, while the American’s think it’s OK to race with lasix,” Selvaratnam added.

“But if all racing jurisdictions follow the same guidelines then we will have a level playing field in a sport that is increasingly becoming more international.”

Former Grand National winning jockey and racing administrator Pat Buckley, who has also played a significant role in assisting the growth of horse racing in the UAE, is confident that the ban on steroids will also come as a breath of fresh air to the breeding industry.

“I and the vast multitude of Equestrian Sport lovers in the UAE are absolutely delighted to hear of the strong stand that His Highness Shaikh Mohammmad has taken against the importation of anabolic steroids into the UAE which will effectively stop the use of the drug in this country,” he said.

“Hopefully the new legislation will be clear and conclusive in banning the use of anabolic steroids and ensure that the use of these drugs becomes a criminal act and perpertrators will be severely punished.

This legislation should concern all equestrian sports so we will once again have a level playing field which will produce fair and honest competition,” he added.

“The breeding industry will also benefit from the new rules and horses will develop according to how nature decrees and not be pumped full of prohibited and unnatural substances.”

The new drug laws in UAE horse racing, which the Emirates Racing Authority (ERA) have pledged will come into place at the earliest opportunity, meet a Selvaratnam and Buckley petition for a level playing field.

Anabolic steroids have previously been permitted in the UAE for veterinary use such as the treatment of equine fractures and in pre-training, but traces must be below determined thresholds within a horse’s system when it races.

The ERA post-race tested over 550 horses from over 4000 runners without unearthing a single positive result.

Al Tayer, vice chairman of the ERA has also spoken strong in support of the steroid ban saying there will be “no hiding place” for steroid abuse in the UAE.

“The UAE now has the strictest regulations possible against anabolic steroids anywhere in the world. It is important to understand that this decree will cover every horse, in every stable, of every yard,” he said in a statement on Friday.

“There will be no hiding place and these changes will be for the betterment of all horse sports in the region.”

Shaikh Mohammad’s decree is in response to 22 horses in the care of Godolphin trainer Mahmoud Al Zarouni returning positive samples in England, including anabolic steroids.