DAVID Battie, head of Racing Analytical Services Ltd (RASL), has confirmed that all swabs taken from greyhounds examined by his laboratory are tested for Recombinant Human Erythropoietin (EPO).
Battie’s comments follow allegations from registered Victorian trainer Charlie Wilson, who admitted to doping one of his greyhounds with EPO on two occasions, with a pre-race swab obtained from the greyhound the second time returning a negative result.
Wilson claims he administered the drug in order to prove corruption within the greyhound racing industry and to identify that Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) are not testing for the permanently banned substance.
However, Battie told Australian Racing Greyhound this is incorrect.
“I can categorically tell you that every single sample that comes through this lab gets tested for EPO,” Battie said.
“In fact, I’d say with confidence we’ve done more research in this lab on EPO than any other lab in the world.”
Wilson claims he purchased the EPO online from overseas countries, including China, before injecting the dog Big Show Mullo two days out from a race on August 11 with 0.2mL intravenously.
Big Show Mullo ran second in that event at $21, before returning the following week where he ran seventh. A pre-race swab was taken from the greyhound on this occasion, with Wilson claiming he tripled the dosage given to the dog.
While Battie said he had not been made aware of the Wilson case or any of its surrounding controversy, he did say that any product coming from China or ‘unscrupulous sources’ should be met with great scepticism.
“We have done a lot of work with Australian customs and seen a lot of that in recent times (substances coming through China),” he said.
“We are testing substances all the time for customs and noticing a lot that are named or believed to be EPO end up not being those substances at all.”
Battie said that another reason why EPO could evade detection in some cases is the time between being administered to the animal or human in question and the testing. For obvious reasons, he could not elaborate on the time period needed to find positive swabs.
On the subject of the price of EPO testing, Battie did confirm that EPO proved to be more expensive to test for, but that it didn’t stop the RASL searching for it.
“There’s no question it’s more expensive to test for EPO, but we’re able to make efficiencies in our testing to allow for that – like I’ve said, no vial comes through here without being tested for it.”
Greyhound Racing NSW head veterinarian John Newell also weighed in on the topic, explaining that the presence of EPO in a swab would depend on the drug’s half-life and the withdrawal period prior to the race.
“I am not aware of its half-life and how long it takes to degrade in the system. The detectability of the drug would depend on whether it has worn off at that time,” Newell said.
Newell’s comments also aligned with those of Battie, explaining that overseas substances labelled as EPO could potentially result in a negative swab due to their poor quality.
“It is available online and a lot of the so-called EPOs from India, Pakistan are certainly not the quality or potency of the registered pharmaceutical product manufactured by recognised companies in Australia.
“They wouldn’t be as efficient or potent initially and as such they would degrade more rapidly [therefore affecting how they work and swab].”
Newell also said that incorrect use of the drug can have damaging results for the greyhound itself and can have a reverse effect on the track.
“It is not a drug which would give an immediate hit because it changes the blood parameters of the greyhound,” he said.
“EPO stimulates the bone marrow to produce extra red [blood] cells and haemoglobin, thereby increasing the oxygen carrying capacity – meaning more oxygen gets to the muscles during exercise.
“Inadvertent use does cause problems because it increases the packed cell volume and it can actually make dogs go slower.
“If the blood becomes too thick it can’t pump around the dog’s system.
“Just to use it and hope it is going to work could cause the dog to have a heart attack.”