Zilpaterol notice: Product alert and regulatory update

16 Oct 2020 BHA Features Integrity Welfare

UPDATE (Monday 26 October): Further to the statement from BETA dated 22 October (see previous update below), the BHA Board has agreed a seven-day extension to the existing moratorium relating to zilpaterol. During the moratorium, any horse that returns a positive result for zilpaterol through raceday, out-of-competition or Elective Testing will not be subject to BHA regulatory action, provided the positive sample is consistent with the feed contamination. This is in line with measures adopted previously in relation to zilpaterol feed contamination by other international racing jurisdictions. This extended moratorium will expire at 23:59 on Sunday 1 November.

The extended moratorium allows time for contaminated feed supplies to be removed and replaced, and we are not anticipating any further extension. From Monday 2 November, we expect that regulatory protocols will revert to pre-moratorium status.


UPDATE (23 October): The British Equestrian Trade Federation (BETA) have issued a statement (22 October) confirming details of feed companies known to have been affected by the contamination, with relevant product and batch details where known. This statement can be found here.


NOTICE (Friday 16 October) Please see below the latest update regarding the Zilpaterol feed contamination. This includes:

  • Product contamination alert
  • Elective testing results
  • Moratorium on BHA regulatory action
  • Background information – Zilpaterol and testing for prohibitive substances

Zilpaterol is a Category A Prohibited Substance under the BHA Rules of Racing. To be clear, zilpaterol is a beta-2 agonist with anabolic properties – it is not an anabolic steroid.

Product contamination alert

The BHA has been made aware that the products of several other equine feed companies besides GAIN, may also have been affected by the shipment of contaminated molasses suspected of containing the substance Zilpaterol.

We understand that the companies in question are contacting customers directly to advise on the batches that may have been affected with the molasses and to replace the contaminated feed. If you are contacted by your supplier, please follow their advice and, if required, stop feeding any potentially affected product immediately, and ensure that all feed equipment (bowls, scoops, bins etc.) that may have contained any contaminated product is cleaned thoroughly with detergent and plenty of water.

Elective testing results

Results from Elective Testing on horses that have consumed GAIN Equine Nutrition products have indicated that Zilpaterol is not present in horses that had the feed withdrawn for four clear days (although this should NOT be considered a formal withdrawal period for Zilpaterol). However, we do not yet know the concentration of molasses in other feeds.

To date, there have been no post-race samples which have tested positive for Zilpaterol in Great Britain. Based on this information, and the Elective Testing results, we believe that contamination levels in feed are very low and it is considered highly unlikely that contaminated feed will lead to any positive results from raceday testing in Great Britain.

Moratorium on BHA regulatory action

In order to provide clarity for participants in what remains an evolving situation, the BHA Board has introduced with immediate effect a seven-day moratorium, during which any horse that returns a positive result for Zilpaterol through raceday, out-of-competition or Elective Testing will not be subject to BHA regulatory action, provided the positive sample is consistent with the feed contamination. This is in line with measures adopted previously in relation to Zilpaterol feed contamination by other international racing jurisdictions.

The moratorium will be kept under constant review in line with updated information relating to the contamination, with the timescale amended accordingly.

Elective Testing is still available to trainers. Please be aware our accredited laboratory is restricted in the number of samples it can test at any one time, which may result in a delay in processing samples.

We do not anticipate any positive results or adverse findings, but we wanted to ensure that trainers and owners are fully aware of the circumstances in which they are running their horses and provide sufficient reassurance in relation to regulatory action.

Those planning to send horses to race in overseas jurisdictions are advised to contact the regulatory authority for that jurisdiction.

We will continue to update the industry with the very latest information as soon as it is available.

In the meantime, we recommend that trainers follow any recall advice closely and contact their feed supplier directly, or the BHA via equine@britishhorseracing.com, with any questions or for further guidance.

Background information – Zilpaterol and testing for prohibited substances

1. What is zilpaterol and how is it regulated in horseracing?

  • Zilpaterol is a beta-2 agonist with anabolic properties, used in the USA and some other countries as an animal-feed additive to promote weight gain, principally in cattle. Zilpaterol is not approved for use in the EU.
  • As a beta-2 agonist, zilpaterol falls within Article 6E of the International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering (IABRW), meaning it cannot be administered to a racehorse at any time during its career.
    • Under Article 6E, there is an exception for beta-2 agonists which may be administered to a horse if prescribed by a veterinary surgeon as a bronchodilator at an appropriate dose. As zilpaterol is not approved for use in horses, this exception does not apply.
  • Consistent with Article 6E, all racing jurisdictions within the European Horserace Scientific Liaison Committee (EHSLC), including France, Ireland and Great Britain, prohibit the use of zilpaterol at all times, both on raceday and out-of-competition.
  • To be clear, zilpaterol is a beta-2 agonist with anabolic properties – it is not an anabolic steroid.

2. Previous issues

  • Zilpaterol has been detected in Thoroughbred horse samples previously, by analytical laboratories in USA (2013), Hong Kong (2013), Mauritius (2019). In all cases, contaminated horse feed was the source of these findings.

3. Current issues

  • Zilpaterol has been reported in several post-race samples from France, which were analysed by the French analytical laboratory LCH, from race meetings held on 30 August 2020 onwards.
  • To date, there have been no post-race samples which have reported positive for zilpaterol in any other European jurisdiction.
  • A common feed, GAIN, was reported to have been fed to all horses returning affected post-race samples. Following testing, GAIN issued a statement confirming that zilpaterol was present in three feeds (Racehorse Cubes, Racehorse Mix and Opti-Care Balancer).
  • In a second statement, GAIN confirmed that the source of zilpaterol contamination was molasses, supplied by the company ED&F Man Ltd.

4. Testing for Prohibited Substances

  • Raceday and out-of-competition testing falls into two categories:
    • Anti-doping, and
    • Medication control.
  • Medication control refers to the control of substances which are prohibited on raceday – these are mainly veterinary medications, which are permitted for use in training, but prohibited on raceda
    • Laboratories used by the EHSLC group have harmonised Screening Limits for such substances.
  • Anti-doping refers to the control of doping agents, such as anabolic steroids, which are prohibited at all times – these substances cannot be administered to a racehorse at any time during its career.
    • Laboratories used by the EHSLC group (European jurisdictions) aim to detect such substances at a Recommended Target Sensitivity. The Recommended Target Sensitivity is the minimum concentration that the EHSLC laboratories are expected to achieve. This harmonised approach is supported by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA).
  • Anti-doping research and development is constantly evolving, in order to maintain pace with those who seek performance enhancement.
    • As such, all laboratories are encouraged to seek improvements beyond the Recommended Target Sensitivity, where possible, for substances which are prohibited at all times. This is because these substances simply have no place in horseracing.
  • LCH (the analytical laboratory for France Galop and Le Trot) and LGC (the analytical laboratory for the BHA and IHRB) are both able to detect zilpaterol in urine, blood and hair to the Recommended Target Sensitivity. LCH have, however, been operating to a more sensitive level for zilpaterol.
  • This has potential implications for a horse which races in more than one jurisdiction (e.g.) two post-race urine samples with the same concentration of zilpaterol may currently be reported as positive in one country, and negative in another.

5. Current action

  • In order to address the current issue in an internationally harmonised manner, the IFHA have convened an Expert Panel comprising regulatory veterinarians, analytical chemists and administrators. The Expert Panel report has now been considered by the EHSLC Board.
  • There is agreement to the following recommendations:
    • All racing jurisdictions should offer Elective Testing for zilpaterol, where contaminated feed is suspected to have been fed
    • Elective Testing should be performed in the country in which a horse holds an entry (e.g.) if a British horse holds an entry in France, the Elective Test should be performed at LCH.
    • Both the IFHA and the EHSLC endorse an approach where no regulatory action is taken against any screening findings for zilpaterol in an Elective Test, where it can be demonstrated that the horse was likely to have been fed contaminated feed.
    • Harmonisation: racing jurisdictions and their analytical laboratories will work through the IFHA to determine whether reporting limits for zilpaterol, and other key substances which are prohibited at all times, can be harmonised