Greyhounds Move To Close Door On Drug Cheats…Too Late

Some ten to fifteen years after the rise in the use of drugs such as Fertagyl, Eryhthropoetin (EPO), Aranesp and SoluCortef as performance enhancers in greyhounds, the Board of Greyhounds Australasia (GA) have today announced they will now commit to finding ways to detect such drugs in greyhounds.

GA, in partnership with the Australian Greyhound Veterinary Association (AGVA), Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL), Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory (ARFL) and Queensland Racing Science Centre has thus established parameters for additional research into Fertagyl, EPO and Hyrdocortisone in the racing greyhound.

Following on from the ban on Anabolic Steroids, Australian authourities are still unable to prosecute any individual for the use of testosterone based anabolic steroids due to the lack of a clearly defined normal range or threshold level of testosterone in greyhounds.

The process of determining that range has been an ongoing process for several years now and the fact that Australian greyhound raacing authorities moved to ban all anabaolic steroids other than ethyleostrenol in female greyhounds; without first establishing the normal testosterone range in both male and female greyhounds has been the source of much conjecture.

As it stands currently only the use of synthetic type anabalic steroids such as Nandrolone, Methandriol and others can be prosecuted in racing greyhounds.

But there are ways to elevate natural testosterone levels in male greyhounds without using the actual steroid itslef. Drugs such as Fertagyl were orginally desgined as aid for farmers to bring sheep and cattle “on season”, but its use in male greyhounds causes stimulation of the sex organs creating a surge of natural testosterone to increase aggression, confidence and chase. As Fertagyl is actually Gonadotrophic Releasing Hormone it is a precursor hormone and its use has so far gone undetected, despite being widely used for the best part of nearly twenty years.

GA have announced they will now work to establish a testing routine to swab for the use of Fertagyl.

Despite assurances in the late 90’s they state autourities could test for the blood boosting drug “EPO”, there has never been a single positive swab uncovered to that drug. Whether or not the current testing procedure works or not is a mute point as less then ten greyhounds per year in Victoria have their routine swab analysis subjected to testing for EPO, due to the huge costs associated with the analysis.

GA have now announced they will use the services of RASL to review those current testing procedures and refine the methodologies associated with the four major forms of Erythropoietin (EPO); Epoietin alpha, “Eprex” or “EPO”; Darbepoietin alpha or “Aranesp” a long acting form of EPO Epoietin beta; “NeoRecormon”, another form of EPO and the recent drug of choice amongst cyclists Continuous Erythropoietin Receptor Activator, “CERA”.

Again the use of EPO is shrouded by the fact the body naturally produces “EPO” in the kidneys to stimulate red blood cell production in the bone marrow. Synthetic EPO was originally developed to assist humans with chronic renal problems to be able to produce enough red blood cells to stave off aneamia. However, as in other elite sports, EPO and its cousins can be used to artificially elevate red blood cell counts to assist carrying more oxygen to muscles under stress during a race and thereby increase stamina. Effectively used EPO could assist a greyhound who can only naturally run the 400m of a provincial or tab class race to run out the full 500m of metropolitan and city racing.

With strength and stamina now a major issue in the breed as many breeders in the 90’s bred for speed and early pace, an artifical way to increase stamina has become increasingly desirable in many bloodlines. And of course the danger of using any greyhounds that have had their careers artificially enhanced by the use of EPO at stud, is that it will further compound the issues of stamina in the breed as only the greyhound’s true genetic short-comings will carry forward.

It should be noted now, that EPO is not the only way to artificially increase stamina in performance animals and the use of HBOC’s or Heamoglobin Blood Oxygen Carriers, is just as effective as it uses another transit method to get oxygen to fatigued muscles. Similarly drugs which increase Heamoglobin levels will have the same effect which is why Heamoglobin levels are tested in elite human sports. No such test is carried out in greyhounds.

Also known to have been used since the early 90’s and recording very few positives is the use of Hydrocortisone and ACTH, commonly used in the injectable form SoluCortef or used as an ACTH gel. Again Hydrocortisone does exist in the greyhound in normal levels as cortisol. Cortisol increases blood pressure, blood sugar levels, blood levels of epinephrine or adrenaline, inhibits loss of Sodium and Pottassium and has strong anti-inlfammatory properties. All the things a greyhound preparing for 30 seconds of high intesity competition can utilise.

GA through the completion of this research, at world standard Australasian Laboratories, is confident that its strategy of improving code integrity will enhance an even playing field for all participants.

The only question I have is why did it take them so long to actually act on these illicit substances which have given unscrupulous trainers an edge for nearly twenty years?