During the later part of 2011 Racing NSW conducted a widespread population study of over 200 geldings for the purpose of examining pre-race urinary testosterone concentrations involving geldings and in particular those travelled long distances to race meetings. The study identified a significant number of elevated levels in pre and post raceday samples which were the subject then of a concentrated follow up program involving a testing regime of the individual horses.
That study identified possible multi factorial causations in elevated testosterone concentrations in geldings other than synthetic administrations of testosterone or its precursors, or pharmaceutical stimulations of the adrenal gland. These factors causing elevated endogenous production of testosterone include excitation caused by transport, genetic predisposition for adrenal gland function, water deprivation and feed micro nutrients.
The results of the study have been the subject of peer review by international experts in the analytical science field and has led to the Australian Racing Board (ARB) introducing new rules of racing AR177C, AR178G, AR 200A. In essence the amendments now allow for the breaching of the current testosterone threshold in geldings (20mg/l) to be viewed as a cause for an investigation rather than a prima facie breach of the prohibited substance rules.
Stewards are therefore provided with the discretion to consider all relevant scientific and analytical evidence available to them in reaching satisfaction to the relevant standard of proof, as to whether or not the detected elevated level of testosterone (above 20mg/l) in the sample was naturally produced by the horse. The amendment however does not allow for the raising of evidence that a prohibited substance was not administered as being grounds to enact Stewards discretion under these new rules.
Analytical experts by examining a range of additional steroid markers will provide this necessary advice to Stewards following a report of an elevated level of testosterone in a geldings sample and the ARB has commissioned additional research to further validate this approach.
Stewards however remain mindful that pharmaceutical testosterone is a potent anabolic agent with the potential to boost performance.