NZTR Supports RIU Drug Testing Regime

Tuesday 14 August

‹ Back to Press Release listings

“NZTR supports the Racing Integrity Unit’s drug testing policy as a way to maintain the integrity of drug free racing in New Zealand”, NZTR Chief Executive Greg Purcell stated today.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing has invested in world class integrity systems with a strong compliance and commitment by thoroughbred racehorse trainers and veterinarians to ensure horses are presented to races and trials drug free.

The thoroughbred racing industry spends more than $3.4 million annually (approximately 5% of the code’s total funding) to ensure the integrity of the sport in New Zealand.

In 2012, NZTR contributed:

  • $2.1 million to the Racing Integrity Unit which undertakes race day stewardship and non-raceday investigations;
  • $0.7 million to the Judicial Control Authority which rules on protests, penalties and appeals;
  • $0.6 million to the New Zealand Racing Laboratory for drug testing.

For the season ending 31 July 2012 there were 3,341 thoroughbred horses tested in competition (compared to 3,349 in FY11). In addition 982 thoroughbreds (compared to 492 in FY11) were subject to pre-race TCO2 tests.

Despite this extensive drug testing regime, no thoroughbred racehorses returned a positive drug test in the 2012 racing season.

As part of its testing regime, the Racing Integrity Unit, in addition to drug testing undertaken by the New Zealand Racing Laboratory, now sends some post-race samples to Hong Kong for additional testing.

Whilst all eighteen thoroughbred samples tested in Hong Kong have proven negative, three harness samples have returned positive samples to arsenic and capsaicin.

However, some concerns have been raised by trainers about the potential presence of minute trace elements of arsenic given New Zealand’s volcanic geology and dependence on tanalised timber in stables and yard fencing, and capsaicin given its inclusion in some pastes used in stables and horse floats to discourage horses from biting wood and chewing wood, metal, rugs and tails.

“The addition of drug testing by the Hong Kong Jockey Club laboratory is to deter any potential drug cheats rather than punishing the innocent. Of the eighteen thoroughbred horses tested in Hong Kong none have tested positive to any substances”, Greg Purcell, Chief Executive of NZTR stated.

“NZTR is committed to supporting the Racing Integrity Unit and the New Zealand Equine Veterinary Association to ensure the efficacy of prescribed withholding periods for therapeutic substances administered by veterinary surgeons.”

Recent responses from Mike Godber, General Manager of the Racing Integrity Unit, to questions from journalist Barry Lichter are attached.



Mike Godber General Manager of the Racing Integrity Unit’s Responses to Questions from journalist Barry Lichter


1.              How many samples has the RIU sent to Hong Kong so far (since end of May?)
36 samples have been sent.
2.              I forget how much you said they cost, was it $2000 or $3000 per sample?
Because of the contractual agreement with Hong Kong I can’t give the exact figure but I can tell you it is well under the figure you quote.
3.              How many samples have been sent from gallopers?
Of the 36, 18 were gallopers. The numbers sent at any time will vary depending on the mix of feature events being run in the period.
4.              There seems to be a lot of talk about eight positives from galloping? Is that rubbish?
Yes it is rubbish. Our policy is to release all irregularities across all three codes.
5.              Is it worth the expense to the industry given none of the wow drugs like EPO or ITPP have been uncovered?
Yes we believe using a laboratory such as Hong Kong which has a reputation of being one of the best if not the best in the world is a good investment. A similar policy of sending targeted samples to Hong Kong has been followed by both Thoroughbreds and Harness codes in Australia.
To date our testing has not uncovered any of these “wow drugs” that are accessible on the international market place but be assured we will do whatever we have to, to detect this type of drug use.
6.              Will there come a time when you or your successor will decide enough is enough?
That would be highly unlikely, enough will never be enough. As noted in your article on 6 May about sending samples to Hong Kong there is a “rapidly moving landscape in doping”. We totally agree with your statement and therefore cannot afford to be complacent. In fact since that article our information is that there are now new drugs in the international market place. So we will utilise the best testing methodologies anywhere in the world to stay up with the game.
7.              Is the damage to the industry worth it when respected trainers are being named with positives to things like long used tonics or wood paints?
The industry risks more damage by not taking all reasonable steps and keeping up with the pace in its drug testing regime.
A number of comments have been made regarding the substances that have been identified and I would like to clarify the facts and put right some misinformation. Firstly in 2003 HRNZ adopted a list of prohibited substances which includes the substances found in Hong Kong. This same list has been adopted by over 50 countries throughout the world.
At that time there was consultation with industry groups including Veterinarians over the list. A copy of the draft regulations including the list of prohibited substances was tabled at a meeting the Harness and Thoroughbred codes had with the Equine Veterinarians. There was no challenge to the substances on the list at that time or since then.
8.              Wasn't the purpose of this exercise to improve the perception of the racing industry?
The purpose of all drug testing is to ensure that industry participants (owners/trainers) can see that everyone is operating on a level playing field. As a consequence this can enhance punter and investor confidence in the industry. The sending of samples to Hong Kong is just a part of our drug testing policy.
The RIU received over whelming support from many sectors of the industry for undertaking this initiative.
9.              What do you think about the idea of not naming trainers until investigations are completed and a decision has been made on whether charges will be laid? Wouldn't that reduce the damage to both individuals and the industry as a whole. It's the old story, if you accuse someone of being a child molester it doesn't matter whether they subsequently get off, the mud still sticks.
These cases are a great example of why the suggestion to delay releasing information about irregularities until a decision on any charges are made wouldn’t work. 
In the cases you are asking about we were receiving calls from media in the period between commencing the investigation and the release being made. That’s how fast the story moved To refuse to make any release until the investigations are completed and any charges laid would simply add fuel to the rumours which invariably are hugely exaggerated, take for example the 8 galloping positives you ask about in question 4.
Our releases are factually correct and we cannot be any more transparent to the industry than that.
10.          How far away is the RIU from deciding on what charges, if any, will be laid against Green and Hughes, Chilcott and Purdon?

You can’t put a time frame on these matters. The investigations have to follow a process and be properly and professionally carried out and not rushed. They are invariably more complex that people may think.


Mike Godber

General Manager

Racing Integrity Unit