Embattled Victorian racing authorities have hit out at newspaper reports that the same drug that has rocked the cycling world is in widespread use in the state.
The peak bodies in both thoroughbred and harness racing issued strongly-worded rejections of a story published in News Ltd papers on Sunday, declaring assertions that Erythropoietin (EPO) are unfounded.
Racing Victoria (RV) integrity manager Dayle Brown said no evidence existed to suggest EPO, the drug used by seven-time Tour de France “winner” Lance Armstrong was systematically in use in Victoria.
“Racing Victoria refutes the assertion that EPO use is widespread in Victorian thoroughbred racing,” Brown said.
“We have a robust and active testing regime in place for both EPO and opiate-based stimulants and there is no evidence to indicate the systematic use of either within this state.”
Harness Racing Victoria also rejected the claims made under the headline “Racing’s Dirty Secret”.
HRV chief operating officer Brant Dunshea says it has taken a lead role in detecting banned substances, in particular EPO and its variants.
Dunshea said HRV had collaborated nationally and internationally on the issue and had a strong record in detection and prosecution of users of such drugs.
HRV had also sought the expert assistance of leading blood doping researcher Dr Mike Ashenden, who has been prominent in the development of the “Blood Passport” testing regime in world cycling.
Prosecutions undertaken by HRV had resulted in disqualification of five licensed persons for periods ranging from 3-1/2 years to 10 years.
Victoria’s Racing Analytical Services Laboratory is the first laboratory in Australia to have a fully certifiable equine confirmatory method for the presence of EPO and similar substances.
RVL’s Brown also slammed allegations in the report that high profile trainers are not targeted for testing to avoid bad publicity.
He said 3298 samples were collected from horses prepared by the top 10 Victorian trainers during the 2011-12 racing season.
The figure represents 50 percent of all starters from those stables.
“The allegation that our drug testing regime is structured to minimise impact and distort statistics could not be further from the truth,” he said.
“The state’s premier trainers are indeed those most tested because they have greater starter numbers and are winning more races.”
More than 14,000 samples were taken from horses during the 2011-12 Victorian thoroughbred racing season, resulting in nine positive results.
Brown said RV’s integrity department worked closely with HRV and authorities in Hong Kong, England and Canada to develop out-of-competition testing strategies to detect EPO and its synthetic form Darbepoetin Alfa (DPO).
The latest allegations follow those of race fixing, jockeys betting on rival horses and a spate of prohibited treatments being discovered in raids on stables.