Paul Bittar, the British Horseracing Authority’s chief executive, has remarked that any horse that has been given anabolic androgenic steroids should be banned for life from competing in the United Kingdom.
Bittar, in the build-up to a Cheltenham Festival rocked by the latest drugs scandal of horse racing, said the time had come for the regulator to take “a strong stand” against anabolic steroids by completely outlawing them. The BHA chief executive said it is extremely important for retaining public confidence in the sport. Bittar, well known among sport circles as the one transforming the fortunes of BHA, said that also means adopting a zero-tolerance approach to the use of anabolic steroids in British racing, even if a horse has a genuine medical reason for being administered those substances. Bittar said his we should not allow horses to be treated under a therapeutic use exemption and it is his personal view that we don't and that we should take quite a strong stand on that.
The science behind the effects of use of steroids in horses is not robust enough for any exemptions to be granted, says Bittar. He went on to say that the huge cut in BHA's budget in the three years before he became chief executive definitely resulted in cut back too far in testing while exposing British racing to some of the risks that we saw last year. Bittar pledged that any increase in the Levy due to an amendment to the Gambling Act going through Parliament may result in even more investment in the BHA’s integrity services. Bittar remarked he is pretty clear that he will advocate for increased spend in those areas and said he would be "lying" if he claimed the doping problems of racing did not remain a source of concern. If the proposed amendment to the Gambling Bill is ratified, this year’s figure of £72.9 million could be boosted to nearer £100 million. Bittar admitted that such an increase would represent his greatest achievement, and said he would be hard to overstate the significance of it but added any change was probably still at least 18 months away.
The BHA chief executive added that we are reliant on wagering in a way that no other sport is, so you could argue that our sport has more to lose by not having high standards of integrity. Bittar also went on to remark that he certainly don’t feel like he will be ready to leave in 11 months’ time and said he loves his job and he thinks he is really lucky to have it, and he would certainly like to stay in it for at least a couple if not a few more years. Bittar went ahead with anti-doping measures and said if you look at other racing jurisdictions – Australia is a really good example – there is race-fields legislation there, which is kind of like a racing right.
Racehorses presently serve a suspension of six months if they are found violating the anti-doping policy but the duration of suspension may be increased as part of the recommendations of an independent report commissioned in the wake of the Godolphin and Sungate scandals.