Hair testing of racing animals key plank of integrity mission

As Queensland officials await results of hair testing on Gold Coast Magic Millions runners to identify any historic use of prohibited substances, integrity boss Mark Ainsworth insists the state’s new hair sampling regime is already kicking goals.

Hair testing of racing animals, which kicked off in the Sunshine State mid last year, determines if there has been any use of prohibited substances in the lead-up time well before a race.

At the time it was announced, integrity bosses claimed the new hair sampling regime “leaves the cheaters nowhere to hide.”

While still in the very early stages and there have been no charges laid over hair sampling results, Ainsworth pointed to the benefits of the deterrent nature of hair testing.

He revealed there had been 43 positive swabs for prohibited substances in thoroughbreds in the 2019/20 financial year but that figure was just seven in the first two quarters of the 2020/21 financial year (up until December).

There was a similar dive in positive swabs over that period in the greyhound industry while harness racing positive swabs also plunged.

Ainsworth said that with the rich Queensland winter racing carnival looming, the industry was on notice about how hair testing was now edging towards the forefront of integrity efforts to stamp out wrongdoing.

Ainsworth, a former police Detective Superintendent who was the top cop in Queensland’s high-profile Baden-Clay murder investigation, is now Acting Commissioner of the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission after Ross Barnett left recently to take up a new role.

“We have got the winter carnival coming up and we have seen increases in prizemoney in thoroughbreds, the hair testing is a bit of innovation and trying something different to keep trainers honest,” Ainsworth said.

“It is another bit of ammunition for us and the animal welfare side of it is pretty important as well.

“Investments in the Racing Science Centre have seen enhanced testing capabilities so we can try to keep ahead of the game a bit more.

“Hair retains the traces of prohibited substances for months, acting like a reservoir for drugs which have been administered over time.”

Banned substances including anabolic agents such as anabolic androgenic steroids along with hormones and metabolic modulators will be targeted with hair testing.

Racing science Centre director Dr Shawn Stanley says historically, anti-doping laboratories test blood, urine and saliva to detect substance abuse through pre and post-race testing, but the use of some prohibited substances in the weeks leading up to a race cannot be detected.

Ainsworth says he is awaiting results of hair sampling from gallopers who competed at the rich Gold Coast Magic Millions day in January.

“This was the first Magic Millions carnival where the Commission has carried out hair testing to identify historic use of prohibited substances,” Ainsworth said.

Ainsworth says stewards will have the ability to lay charges based on results from hair testing, stating: “It’s going to come down to the circumstances of the testing and what drug is in the system.”

Originally published asNew hair testing regime making its mark in Queensland racing

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