Officials find EPO in stables
The discovery of the controversial, and banned, blood doping substance, EPO, for the first time in New Zealand horse racing has those charged with keeping the sport clean concerned.
Ashburton horse trainer Len Faber is under investigation after a syringe of synthetic EPO was handed over during a routine stable inspection by members of the Racing Integrity Unit late last week.
Faber had two horses engaged to race at Riccarton on Saturday, but both were declared late scratchings following the findings.
His two runners set to race at Timaru today have also been withdrawn while Faber's horses and the syringe are tested.
Integrity Unit general manager, Mike Godber, said the discovery of the drug was unnerving.
"You always hope that a drug like this has been kept out of the sport," Godber said.
"The fact it has been discovered is of great concern though as you are always worried about possible involvement.
"Its reputation from its involvement in other sports isn't great, and the advice we are getting from our own vet is that the case we are dealing with is the real deal."
EPO rose to infamy for its involvement in the cycling world and is what Lance Armstrong admitted to using throughout his career.
Its main use is to increase the number of red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. The drug found at Faber's property was NeoRecormon, a medication for human use which can only be obtained with a prescription.
"The real difficulty with it (EPO) is that there is only so long after it's been administered that it is detectable.
"You could test a horse one week but be seven days too late, and it's gone from the system.
"We won't have a clearer picture until we get the results back from samples taken and investigations are concluded and that isn't expected to be until later in the week."
Faber denied treating any of his horses with the drug when spoken to by Fairfax Media over the weekend, and said the syringe in question had been in his vehicle for three months after he was given it.
He also stated that all blood tests taken from his horses would return clean.
"They'll be clean because I haven't given them anything," he said.
"I don't want people thinking I'm a drug cheat. The guy who gave it to me said try it out because it would work on horses who needed help. The vets couldn't tell me what was wrong with the horse."
EPO has already had a high profile case in Australia where former New Zealand horseman Richard Laming was disqualified for three years.
- © Fairfax NZ News