The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has committed itself to a funding round of £1m in a bid to prevent gene doping in the sport, after experts have warned that it could present the “dawn of a new era.”
The funding, which is expected to cover a five-year programme, will help develop detection methods to prevent gene doping. The detection methods would be monitored at scientific advisory group LGC’s laboratory in Newmarket.
The decision comes as global racing federations have identified that gene doping could pose a significant threat to the sport, with doping methods ranging from cloning to the delivery of an EPO hormone gene, raising serious integrity and welfare concerns.
David Sykes, the BHA’s director of equine health and welfare, has already taken a stand against gene doping through his position on the Gene Doping Control Subcommittee of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities.
Dr James Scarth, LGC’s head of animal sports testing, told the Partnership for Clean Competition conference in London: “Something we are just getting into, in the same way as human sports, is gene doping. We’ve been talking about this for a long time, I know the industry has. But we are now seeing the dawning of a new era.”
Scarth continued: “There were these animals that had really severe ligament and tendon injuries and were given vascular endothelial growth factor and fibroblast growth factor and they completely healed. We are acutely aware of what impact this could have.”
A series of ethical concerns have been raised over gene doping in horse racing over the years. The new BHA-funded research will therefore set out the most effective ways of tackling doping and ensure that integrity is upheld in the sport.