The racing industry has announced plans to lower the screening limit for the equine drug clenbuterol in an effort to crack down on drug cheats.
Veterinarians prescribe clenbuterol to treat equine airway disease as a bronchodilator. However, it also mimics the muscle-building properties of anabolic steroids when used in high doses.
Racing Australia has adopted a new International Screening Limit for clenbuterol, which will apply to both the thoroughbred and harness racing codes.
The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) is implementing a new lower screening limit of 0.1 ng/ml in urine from 1 April 2023.
By increasing the detection window to at least 13 days for oral administration and 6 days when it is nebulised, will increase the time available to detect drugs in urine tests from 3-4 days (oral) and 2 days (nebulised) under the current screening limit.
Racing commissioner Shane Gillard said that clenbuterol can still be used on racing animals for medical purposes, as prescribed by a veterinarian.
He said, “Due to the drug’s side effects, participants who administer high doses of clenbuterol can gain an unfair advantage when racing.”
The lowering of the screening limit will deter the misuse of registered products to take advantage of anabolic steroid side effects, but it will not have a significant effect on those using these preparations in accordance with the manufacturer’s treatment guidance.
Shane Gillard further said,
“I encourage all participants across thoroughbred and harness racing codes to ensure their treatment protocols align with the new screening limit, as those found to be non-compliant will be penalised.”
Veterinarians treating registered racing animals are advised to apply a suitable safety margin when administering the drug clenbuterol so that the horse does not provide a sample that inadvertently exceeds the revised screening limit.
In order to ensure safety, the dose of a drug should be based on the circumstances of each administration, including the dose and the route of administration.