Animal Sports Testing

The control of drug use in international sport is undertaken by WADA (The World Anti-Doping Agency).  This is reflected in the World Anti-Doping Code 2005, Article 16 - Doping Control for Animals Competing in Sport: "In any sport that includes animals in competition the National Federation for that sport shall establish and implement anti-doping rules for the animals included in that sport".  This specifies the requirement of drug screening in all animal sports.


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With a large analysis base for pre-competition, post-competition and out-of-competition racehorse screening, methodology is in place for the comprehensive screening of plasma and urine (equine and other animals) for drug substances.  This is offered to clients at a low analysis price and a short analysis time. This screen is important for specimens that require comprehensive screening to comply with the requirements for international horse and dog racing (Association of Official Racing Chemists) and racing federations such as the Federation Equestrian Internationale (FEI) and the International Federation for Horseracing Authorities.


A less comprehensive plasma (blood) screen for drugs of most importance for other equine disciplines (e.g. dressage, show jumping, show and endurance) and relating to horse soundness is also offered.  Due to the popularity of this screen there is a low analysis price and fast turnaround time. 


Methodology is currently being developed for the screening of especially the natural steroids testosterone, nandrolone, boldenone, hydroxyprogesterone and estradiol in the ester form.  Such screening is an important measure to prove that high natural steroid concentrations in an animal are not due to natural processes but due to the exogenous administration of commercial ester preparations.


The screening of race pigeons’ faeces for performance enhancing drugs is a protocol which was developed with the SA National Pigeon Organisation (SANPO).  The Laboratory and SANPO can assist other pigeon controlling bodies in establishing and conducting prohibited substance control within pigeon racing.  Pigeon faeces screening is conducted for selected pigeon clubs in the United Kingdom.


Other analyses are available on request and will be customised to the requirements of the client.  Such screening could be for single drugs/veterinary compounds or a comprehensive list of compounds.


Full Screening on Equine Specimens

This screen is a full screen covering all prohibited substances in horseracing.The following drug classes are or can be screened for at the Laboratory as part of horseracing and animal sports contract analysis:

and other less prominent drug classes.

Customised Screening on Equine Specimens

This screen is a more cost-effective substitute and is selective for the prohibited drugs in horses as listed below.  Since these drugs are of most concern and the most abused in many of the horse disciplines outside racing this is an effective drug screening at a more affordable price than full screening. This testing service is targeted in determining the drugs which can affect the outcome of physical soundness assessments as well as influence performance during eventing/competition.  Additional to the local animal drugs, screening also includes human preparations and a wide variety of drugs not locally available.

Race Pigeon Faeces analysis

It is clear from the personal and financial gains within pigeon racing that the sport is highly vulnerable to exploitation.  The use of prohibited substances is an issue which presents itself in this regard, and there is evidence that such practices occur worldwide.  This damages the integrity, image and value of sport, and contravenes the fundamental principles of sportsmanship and fair competition.


During 2002 SANPO partnered with the Laboratory of The National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa (NHA Laboratory) in establishing the required procedures, rules, infrastructure and knowledge required for effective specimen collection enforcement, prohibited drug screening and prohibited substance prosecution.  SANPO provided many years of practical experience and expertise in the control of pigeon racing in South Africa while the NHA Laboratory added much scientific experience and screening infrastructure.  This combined expertise is important to ensure sensible drug screening in pigeon racing and effective screening for all of the important substances.  During the last few years much work was undertaken in establishing the required structure and procedures for prohibited substance control, culminated in the SANPO Manual which was issued during 2005.  The Manual is the official document which comprehensively details prohibited substance control within SANPO.  It is also a practical guide to drug rules, sampling, specimen traceability, security, transport, screening, results management and mechanism of prohibited substance prosecution.


Research into race pigeon testing started during 2002 with the NHA Laboratory visiting other international race pigeon screening laboratories and consulting other pigeon racing bodies.  During this time drug administration studies were undertaken on 16 pigeons, studying 8 drugs at the University of Pretoria with ethical approval by the University.  The main objective was to develop cost-effective methodologies for efficient drug extraction and detection.  Also of importance was to study drug excretion times and natural steroid profiles.  Prohibited performance enhancing drug preparations obtained locally and overseas were analysed to confirm the effectiveness of the drug screening.  This was followed by an evaluation period during which SANPO protocols and methodologies were optimised for practicality and effectiveness.  The screening methodology currently in place has been developed from experience in this field.  It is however constantly being updated and improved as new screening techniques and methodologies become available.

General aspects of animal sports testing

The matrix for Full drug screening andCustomised screening on equine specimens include urine (preferred for full screen) and plasma or serum of full blood (preferred for custom screen).

Current methodology is designed around the analysis of pigeon faeces.

In the absence of prohibited drugs, analysis results will be reported in the form of a Certificate of Analysis with a listing of the specimens which tested negative.  Where screening indicates the presence of a prohibited drug the relevant authority/client will be informed as soon as possible.  On request and at no additional cost an assessment can be made of the approximate concentration of the drug.  The Laboratory will be able to assist in approximating the administration time of the drug which will help in determining the severity and significance of the drug finding.

Specimens containing analytes above the target concentration will be kept in secure storage.  The format of reporting and additional work to be conducted on such specimens will be discussed with the client.


The Laboratory acts as an approved facility for the confirmatory reference analysis of drug positive samples from England, France, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Morocco and Singapore.  Since 2000 there have been more than 100 such analyses.

The security and proof of intactness of specimens between the time of collection and receipt at the Laboratory require consideration, especially when penalties or drug offence inquiries are involved.  The National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa can offer the procedure of specimen security which is employed for horseracing.  This involves specimens to be sealed in plastic bottles with unique metal seals.  These bottles are transported to the Laboratory with a double seal mechanism.  There is also the option of collecting two separate specimens from the horse at the time of specimen collection.  Only the one specimen is analysed while the other (reference specimen) is kept in a secure, sealed state at our Laboratory.  This specimen can then be investigated at a later stage, possibly by another Laboratory, to confirm the test result of the initially analysed specimen.

Current clients for equine and pigeon drug testing

Note that many of these clients have different requirements for specimen collection, security and the list of compounds to be screened for.  These are catered for in a customised service which is provided for the particular client.


Horse urine and plasma specimens (Equine Disciplines and Horse Pre-purchase Examinations):


Pigeon Specimens (performance enhancing drug testing of faeces):