Racing greyhounds have repeatedly tested positive for serious drugs. Five racing countries have regulatory frameworks in place to handle drug screening — Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. These industry organizations are responsible for finding and handling drug violations.
In Australia, each state and territory has a regulatory agency. Since 2008, these agencies have reported hundreds of greyhound drug positives. In Queensland, greyhounds have tested positive for amphetamine, morphine, and pentobarbitone, a barbiturate. In New South Wales, greyhounds have tested positive for EPO, amphetamine, and codeine. Between 2015 and April 2018, 201 greyhounds tested positive for drugs in New South Wales. In Victoria, eight greyhounds tested positive for codeine and morphine in 2016. In Tasmania, greyhounds have tested positive for caffeine and cobalt. In South Australia, greyhounds have tested positive for amphetamine and cobalt. Additionally, greyhounds in Australia test positive for unusual drugs. In Queensland, a greyhound tested positive for Desvenlafaxine, a drug normally used to treat depression and which isn’t used at all in veterinary medicine. In Western Australia, a greyhound tested positive for Fertagyl, a drug normally used in cows to control estrus cycles.
The Irish Greyhound Board has posted 200 greyhound drug positives since 2012 in the form of Control Committee Reports and Adverse Analytical Findings. These include cocaine, amphetamine, and pentobarbital positives. While cocaine and amphetamine are known as dangerous performance-enhancing drugs, pentobarbital is a performance-reducing drug. In large doses, it has been used for euthanasia and appears in nearly 20% of all IGB drug positives.
In New Zealand, the Racing Integrity Unit found thirty-nine greyhound drug positives from 2014 to 2019. According to New Zealand’s Judicial Control Authority, some of these positives were morphine. Additionally, two greyhound trainers tested positive for cannabis.
In the United Kingdom, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain has published hundreds of greyhound positives since 2009, sixty-one alone in contract year 2017/18. These include stanozolol, barbiturates, and morphine. Stanozolol is a synthetic anabolic steroid and has been banned for its performance-enhancing influence. Barbiturates are central nervous system depressants and are serious performance-affecting drugs. Morphine has been used as a masking agent in greyhounds to make dogs less aware of any injuries they may have.
In Scotland, a December 2016 newspaper investigation found that race fixing with drugs occurred with regularity at non-registered “flapping” tracks. A trainer admitted to giving his dog valoids to slow him down, waiting a few races until the betting odds became favorable, then taking him off the drugs to result in a faster race pace. Scottish greyhounds have continued to be drugged: one trainer’s greyhounds tested positive for cocaine and a betablocker in March 2019. Altogether, twenty-eight drug positives have occurred at Shawfield Stadium since 2009, including five for cocaine.
In the United States, each racing jurisdiction reports drug rulings to a regulatory racing commission. These rulings are public records, but are not generally collected. Since 2008, GREY2K USA has documented over 500 violations in six racing states and several former racing states, including drug positive tests for cocaine, ractopamine, anabolic steroid metandienone, and industrial solvent dimethyl sulfoxide.
The drugging of greyhounds has been an open secret in the dog racing world for years. Dogs in this industry are testing positive for drugs at racetracks across the United States.
Read our report “No Confidence: Drugs in the American Greyhound Racing Industry” to learn more.
The Association of Racing Commissioners International classifies cocaine as a Class I drug, the highest prohibited category. Nonetheless, since fiscal year 2008, cocaine has been found in racing dogs at least 70 times in Alabama, Arkansas, and Florida.
From 2016 to 2017, thirty greyhound cocaine positives were reported at two Florida racetracks.
At Derby Lane, industry veteran Malcolm McAllister was issued six greyhound cocaine positive citations, resulting in the revocation of his license in May 2017.
At Orange Park Kennel Club, trainer Charles F. McClellan was charged with eighteen greyhound cocaine positive infractions, six belonging to the same dog, which resulted in his suspension.
Charles F. McClellan's replacement Natasha Nemeth was also cited with six greyhound cocaine positive violations, two from the same greyhounds which tested positive under McClellan’s supervision, and was likewise suspended. The kennel McClellan and Nemeth worked for, Steve M. Sarras Kennels, was dissolved shortly after Nemeth’s suspension in July 2017.
Cocaine positives have also been documented internationally.
In July 2017, the winner of the Irish Laurels tested positive for cocaine.
In December 2016, a greyhound tested positive for cocaine at The Gardens Greyhound and Sporting Complex in New South Wales, Australia. In August 2010, a greyhound tested positive for cocaine after a race at Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium in England.
In 2010, a greyhound tested positive in the Australian Capital Territory.
At least some dogs that test positive for cocaine may be exposed to the drug through human transference. Positive test results often involve small amounts of cocaine. There are also multiple state disciplinary rulings in which kennel workers tested positive for cocaine themselves.
In August 2016, three licensees at Southland Park were tested for drugs, and two tested positive for cocaine and were fined $1,000 each.
In 2012, an assistant greyhound trainer at Tucson Greyhound Park in Arizona was fined $300 and suspended for sixty days after testing positive for cocaine and marijuana.
Female greyhounds are routinely given anabolic steroids to disrupt estrus. Estrus is the natural "heat" cycle for females.
This common industry practice serves to prevent the loss of race days for female greyhounds. According to the industry handbook Care of the Racing & Retired Greyhound, trainers "should note that the full estrus cycle … from start to finish lasts 15 weeks … and, of this time, the bitch can race or trial only for the second 3-week stage." To avoid this down time, the use of steroids in female greyhounds has become ubiquitous.
Greyhounds may also be given anabolic steroids to enhance performance. According to Dr. Richard Sams of the University of Florida Racing Laboratory, anabolic steroids such as Stanozolol would be "excellent" for enhancing performance.
According to Care of the Racing & Retired Greyhound, anabolic steroids can cause serious side effects. These include:
Increased aggression which can result in fighting during trialing and racing
Increased weight due to water retention
Occasional loss of vigor
However, nowhere in the book do the authors recommend halting the medication. On the contrary, they state, "If the bitch has an adverse reaction to either [steroid] … then one should change to the opposite form of medication."
Industry participants have repeatedly violated steroid bans and restrictions:
In December 2013, an Alabama greyhound trainer was fined for possession of drug paraphernalia. One of the confiscated medications was testosterone.
In August 2013, Florida greyhound trainer James O'Donnell was found in possession of steroid paraphernalia. He later admitted that "[w]e've been using [testosterone] for years and years."
In 2008, South Tucson voters passed the Tucson Dog Protection Act. This measure in part prohibited the dosing of female greyhounds with anabolic steroids. To comply, the track veterinarian simply transported the dogs into Tucson, a separate incorporated municipality, and continued the practice of administering anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroid use – and in many cases specifically testosterone – has been denounced in other countries. In 2010, the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Review Board evaluated Great Britain's medication and drug policies for racing greyhounds. On the use of testosterone to suppress a bitch's "heat," the Board wrote, "We can see no justification, on ethical or welfare grounds, for the use of an androgenic ('masculinising') drug in a racing bitch and urge that the use of testosterone be prohibited as soon as possible."
Greyhounds Australasia, which makes racing rules and recommendations to Australian states and territories, as well as New Zealand, considers testosterone "a 'prohibited substance' as defined by the National Racing rules" and allows only a threshold of "10 nanograms per milliliter in a sample of urine" for naturally occurring versions of it.
Taking this ban one step further, the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association has prohibited "[a]ll forms of steroids" and established penalties for greyhound test positives which include a one-year disqualification and/or fine of $6,000.
The Greyhound Board of Great Britain no longer includes testosterone on its "List of Permitted Treatments."