TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Two state legislators from opposite sides of the isle have met in the middle this week to rekindle a bipartisan effort in banning the use of all anabolic steroids in Florida greyhound racing.
State Rep. Carlos Guillermo-Smith, D-Orlando, and Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, have re-filed two pieces of legislation which found considerable favor among respective committees earlier this year. Smith’s previous bill traveled the furthest, passing through the Florida House, before dying in the Senate three days prior to the end of the 2017 legislative session.
“I will not give up on our bipartisan work to protect racing greyhounds from harmful anabolic steroids,” Smith said in a press release Friday. “We passed the bill in the House last session and are ready to do it again in 2018.”
House Bill 463 & Senate Bill 674 were filled Thursday and aim to accomplish the same goal: protect racing greyhounds from the harms of prolonged anabolic steroid use. The bipartisan efforts of both Smith and Young would amend Florida Statute 550.2415(1)(a) by adding the following language:
“It is a violation of this section for a greyhound to have anabolic steroids present resulting in a positive test for such steroids based on samples taken from the greyhound before or immediately after the race of that greyhound.”
However rampant, steroids are not the only drug plaguing the greyhound community. Earlier this year, First Coast News brought you the story of several greyhounds racing in Orange Park that were found with trace amounts of cocaine in their systems.
Grey2K USA, a non-profit greyhound protection organization, backed previous efforts to outlaw steroids in a letter sent to Michael Barry, policy chief for the Tourism and Gaming Control Subcommittee. In the memorandum, Carey Theil, executive director of Grey2K, highlights specific instances where the use of testosterone and anabolic steroids have been proven to be detrimental to the overall health of greyhounds.
Steroids are most commonly used in racing greyhounds to increase profits by reducing the days needed for recovery, according to industry handbook "Care of the Racing and Retired Greyhound." The handbook states that the stress of constantly racing, coupled with the use of testosterone derivatives can prevent a female dog from entering an estrus cycle, which hinders racing ability.
Anabolic and androgenic steroids are currently a Class 3 foreign substance, based on the Racing Commissioners International (RCI) Drug Classification Scheme. While the drugs listed under this classification are prohibited, penalties for positive drug uranalysis are merely recommendations to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering and not punishable under state law.
Furthermore, an administrative rule dating back to 2006 has allowed veterinarians and kennel owners to administer testosterone or testosterone-like substances, when used for the control of estrus in female racing greyhounds, thus skirting any potential penalty from a positive drug urinalysis.
Anti-doping regulations, which prohibit the use and administration of anabolic steroids in greyhound racing, have been passed in countries like Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand. In the U.S., the practice is frowned upon, but still seen in places like Florida, where 12 of the 18 licensed pari-mutuel greyhound tracks in the country still operate.
By amending the Florida statute, all use of anabolic steroids in greyhound racing would become a violation of state law. Violators would be subject to a revocation, suspension or outright denial of a license or permit, as well as a minimum fine of $10,000. A violator could also face prosecution from the state for criminal acts committed.
“Greyhounds are gentle dogs, and deserve to be protected,” Young said. “I’m proud to fight for this good bill, and am confident we can pass it this year.”