The owner of a racehorse that won a race last month in Malta has been fined after the horse tested positive for several different drugs.
According to the Times of Malta, The Malta Racing Club has fined the owner of a six-year-old mare named Halina Jibay €350 after the horse tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, and stanozolol which is a synthetic steroid. The owner, whose identity was not released, was also barred from entering any other races for at least two years.
Halina Jibay reportedly outran nine other horses at the Marsa racetrack on October 1. A urine sample was taken the day of the race and sent off to Laboratoire des Courses Hippiques, a French laboratory, for testing as part of regular anti-doping measures set forth by EquestriMalta, the regulatory body for Maltan equine sports. That urine test came back with a positive reading for the aforementioned list of drugs. Drug tests are routinely carried out on the winners of races and the other contenders are chosen via a random lottery system.
At least two of the substances found in the urine analysis, cocaine and methamphetamine to be exact, were considered to be among the most serious rule breaches of the Malta Racing Club. EquestriMalta told the Times of Malta that they took specific measures to ensure incidents like this did not happen, including an increase of the number of required anti-doping tests and financial assistance to the Malta Racing Club to ensure testing regulations could be easily followed.
The owner was given until Monday to contest the findings of the urine analysis and present a counter analysis. If the owner chose not to contest, a report was to be filed with Maltan law enforcement. According to the Times of Malta, the horse was born in France in 2017 and has raced 13 other times this year. She placed first in two of those races and placed second in four of them.
Apparently, cocaine works very similarly on horses as it does on humans in that it gives them increased bursts of energy and numbs any muscular pain they might be experiencing. The Times of Malta article said horse owners using cocaine to cheat races is actually somewhat common but it does not happen in Malta as often. Malta, which is a small island tucked in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and the North African coast, has seen four cases involving horses testing positive for illegal substances in the last eight years.
The rest of the world, however, is apparently feeding cocaine to their horses like hot cakes. A cursory Google search showed me way more stories of similar horse-drugging incidents than I was expecting. The most recent example was a 3-year-old Queensland horse named End Assembly that tested positive for cocaine after winning the $200,000 grand prize at a feature race in December of 2022.
The horse’s trainer and his son, Mark and Ben Currie respectively, were both found guilty of being in charge of a racehorse with a prohibited substance in its system, according to ABC Australia. Another horse trained by the Curries had previously tested positive for cocaine as well. There are countless more examples of horses being accused or found guilty of being on drugs that, in Google terms, go back as far as 2016.
Beyond that, cases of humans using drugs on horses go all the way back to the Roman Empire when crucifixion was handed out as a punishment for treating horses with hydromel, which is essentially beer. Arsenic doping of horses was also somewhat common in the 1800’s. A stable boy was even hung for giving arsenic to a horse in 1812. In 1912, swabs were made available that tested racehorses for common stimulants and painkillers at the time like caffeine, theobromine and morphine. Horse doping really took off after pool betting was legalized in 1933 as well, with some estimates putting the number of doped up racehorses well over 50% at the time.
The owner of Halina Jabay was ordered to return any prizes won, suspended from the Malta Racing Club and banned from transferring the horse while under suspension. Halina Jibay was suspended from racing for one year following the incident, which seems a little unfair because as far as I know, horses are not capable of preparing and ingesting drugs. But with how often it seems to be happening…