The National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa routinely takes specimens from racehorses to test for prohibited substances. Normal policy is to take a specimen from at least one horse in each race as well as doing out of competition testing. As a result, roughly 5,000 specimens are analysed by The National Horseracing Authority's world class laboratory each year.
The National Horseracing Authority continues to be vigilant to ensure that particularly erythropoietin and/or growth hormones are not being misused in racing. Erythropoietin, or EPO as it is called, is a substance which, when administered to a human athlete, increases the production of red blood cells and thus enables the blood to carry more oxygen. It does, however, have serious side effects which have led to the death of some of the athletes who have used it. If commercially available EPO is administered to a horse, repeated high doses would be required to significantly increase the quantity of red blood cells. The exposure to commercial EPO can, as in the case of humans, be harmful and even life-threatening to the horses. Commercial growth hormone treatment of the horse has been shown to result in a general increase in muscle mass.
In addition to its routine testing programme, The National Horseracing Authority has again this year embarked on an extensive, additional and narrowly focused set of tests for erythropoietin and growth hormone. Blood samples taken from approximately 170 of the top rated horses from throughout South Africa were tested during June 2018. The laboratory found no evidence of the use of either substance.
Whilst these tests would clearly suggest that neither EPO nor growth hormone are being used in horses being raced in South Africa, The National Horseracing Authority will continue to test for these substances on a routine basis.
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