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About - Illegal Drug Use

Illegal Drugs used in Racing

Greyhounds like any athlete suffer from injuries such as those already been described. These can be treated by using many methods such as rest, modern technology as well as drugs. It is the use of drugs by the greyhound athlete that I will now discuss.

Both therapeutic and non-therapeutic drugs are used widely in the greyhound racing industry. A therapeutic drug is a drug that is used to cure and generally contribute to the greyhounds well being. Non-therapeutic drugs are used to either enhance performance or to remove the symptoms of illness or injury.

All greyhound athletes deserve the optimum therapy by vets and trainers to maintain health and fitness. There are many legitimate medications that can be used in this therapy. These drugs may be therapeutic if used in the correct manner but can also be non-therapeutic if used incorrectly for performance enhancing.

The National Greyhound Racing Club uses the services of the Horse Racing Forensic Laboratory Ltd. They carry out a standard screening programme to identify Prohibited Substances according to the International Agreement of Racing Authorities. Prohibited substances according to this Agreement includes substances capable at any time of acting on one or more of the mammalian body systems. Greyhounds are required to race drug free so drug testing programmes have been instituted to protect the welfare of racing animals, to protect the credibility of the racing industry and to ensure a level play field for participating owners and trainers.

Medications used therapeutically include antibiotics, worming medications, preanesthetic agents, local anaesthetics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatorys, corticosteriods, antidiarrheal medications, bronchodilators, antihistamines, antitussives, diuretics and tropical medication. All of these drugs can be administered legally to an injured greyhound but to be able to race these drugs have to have passed through the body. These therapeutic drugs mind may be used for non-therapeutically to enhance the greyhounds performance.

For example local anaesthetics are used therapeutically in vet practises for minor surgery, once on the race track these drugs can be used non-therapeutically, procaine is an example of a local anaesthetic and central stimulant this can be used to mask lameness allowing for an injured greyhound to race. This would arise welfare issues as the greyhound is not at prime fitness and is forced to race.

Another example of a therapeutic drug being used non-therapeutically is Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO); this is an effective pain relieving anti-inflammatory agent. If used on the racetrack again swelling and injuries can be masked allowing an unfit dog to race. This is a problem as the drugs mask the pain from the dog so the animal can be pushed to its limit, which will have devastation effects on the injury already sustained.

Information obtained from the primary drug-testing lab in Denver showed that drug use in greyhound racing is small in that area. In 2001 a total of 16,678 samples were submitted to the lab for testing to comply with the rules of racing. Of these samples from both horse and greyhound racing 46 horse samples tested and 12 greyhound samples tested positive. Of these 12 samples 4 samples showed the use of caffeine, theophylline and theobromine. 1 showed the use of Dimethyl Sufoxide (DMSO), 1 showed the use of Salicylic acid and 6 showed the use of Trimethoprim. These drugs are all used therapeutically with exception to caffeine. DMSO reduces inflammation, Salicylic acid is a aspirin and thrimethoprim treats respiratory and urinary tract infections. Although the levels of drug use is low, testing does not occur on every dog at every race so many others may have slipped through with drugs within their system.

It was very difficult to find information on the use of non-therapeutic drugs used in this industry as people were unwilling to help as they may be subjected to claims of illegal uses. The information found is based on the horse and human athlete although each drug listed has been seen in the greyhound industry.

Non-therapeutic drugs used by greyhound trainers include substances such as caffeine, amphetamines, EPO which is a human hormone, Prozac, Viagra, anabolic steroids, testosterone which is a muscle building hormone, chlorbutanol and phenobarbitone. All of these drugs are legal but have little use in the dog world other than to enhance performance.

Caffeine is a well-known drug found in coffee, tea and cans of fizzy drinks. It has been found that caffeine enhances the athletic performance in dogs. Research published by Lambert et al, 1982 showed that if dogs were given 600mg of caffeine by mouth 1 hour before racing 360 yards, the caffeine would be detected in the urine up to 32 hours with the peak levels being between 1-5 hours after dosing. This shows that even an easily accessible drug can be within the system for a long time. The reasons for feeding the dogs caffeine was unclear but by looking at the effects of caffeine on humans it became clear why caffeine enhances performance. Short term effects of caffeine is increase in alertness, heart rate, concentration and a decrease in sleepiness so in theory a dog that will run faster.

EPO is usually used to treat anaemia associated with HIV infections. EPO is a natural hormone secreted by the kidneys that acts on bone marrow to stimulate the production of red blood cells. By administrating this to a dog I would image that the same would occur allowing more oxygen to be taken to the muscle therefore allowing the animal to race for longer without getting tried or excessive build up of lactic acid.

In the 1970s chlorbutanol and phenobarbitone were used in many doping cases at the racetrack with chlorbutanol being used in 34% of cases and phenobarbitone in 45% of cases. Through researching into these drugs detection procedures were found and these drugs became harder to use without detection, therefore some trainers had to move to other substances that would be harder to track. This is shown by the use of Viagra the anti-impotence pill, the Irish Greyhound Board has just added this pill to there prohibited substance list when rumours began that trainers were using this drug to enhance performance. Viagra is thought to raise the dogs blood pressure and increase its heart rate leading to quicker times in the early stages of a race.

Mr KH [individual named], a greyhound trainer admitted to doping his greyhound for 35 years using a cocktail of ritinol, dexedrine which is an amphetamine and caffeine to make them bolt from the starting box. So it can be seen that these drugs have been used on the racetrack.

Illegal drugs have also been reported to be used on the race track. Cocaine is the most widely talked about but I could find information on the effect it has on the dogs, although speed will probably be increased.

Susan McCulloch

Susan is a student at Moulton College, Northamptonshire studying for a BSc in Animal Welfare and Management. As part of her course she produced this project greyhound racing.


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