Buscar

Effective Drug Policies for Racing Pigeons

Back in May of 2012, Peta released a “Sting” video about the racing pigeon sport, and from the very beginning, this video was full of misrepresentations and out right lies. However, in one part of the video, a club officer of one of the IF clubs in the NYC area (see legend below), actually stated on the video that the racing pigeon sport has a doping problem.

What the club officer meant, was that his club had tested birds whose results tested positive for controlled or prohibitive substances.  The end results of this person’s statement was that Peta had a confession that racing pigeon fanciers “dope” their birds.

Unfortunately, what this club officer stated, was most likely not the truth.  I believe that few if any racing pigeons have ever flunked a drug test.  Rather, what I believe is that the technology in the drug testing industry has far outstripped the technological expertise of the local club’s officers.  These club officers are not qualified to properly assess the results of a drug test, as it relates to racing pigeons.

Over the past twenty years, the resolution of the drug testing equipment (the ability to find the presence of a substance), has increased by a factor of 500.  Back in the 1980’s and 90’s most drug tests reported substances in parts per million, which was usually expressed for racing pigeon samples as micro grams per milliliter (μg / ml).

Drug testing equipment today, routinely reports the presence of a substance in parts per billion, making them hundreds of times more sensitive than the tests done twenty some years ago.  Today, when a racing pigeon organization gets test results from one of the professional testing labs, these results are expressed in nano grams per milliliter (ng / ml).

The fact is, the testing equipment of today makes it nearly impossible not to detect the presence of many of the substances we routinely test for.  For example, caffeine, theophylline and theobromine are so prevalent in the environment, that you cannot “not test positive” for these substances.

So then, how does one adjust for the high sensitivity of drug testing equipment today?  What the sports associations do is set a threshold limit above which the sample must register before it is considered as a positive test for the substance.

Well then, problem solved, all we have to do is apply the same threshold limits as the horse racing industry does, right?  Wrong!  In the horse racing industry, the tests are conducted within an hour of the race and as such, these drug test are an accurate sampling of the amount of a substance in the horse at the time of the race.

In racing pigeons, we take the sample anywhere from 12 – 36 hours prior to the race release.  The samples we take have little correlation to the amount of the substance which will be in the bird at the time of the race release.  Why is that, because all these substances metabolize and break down over time.  The scientific expression for the rate of this breakdown is called the half-life of the substance.

For example, the half-life of caffeine in humans is about 5 hours.  This means that the amount of caffeine in a human athlete will decrease by 50% every 5 hours.  Taking this rate of metabolization and applying it to racing pigeons the breakdown for a bird testing 400ng/ml (400 nano grams per mililiter) at the club just prior to basketing would over time be as follows:

  400 ng/ml at 8:00 PM Thursday (time of the sample collection)
  200 ng/ml at 1:00 AM Friday
  100 ng/ml at 6:00 AM Friday
   50 ng/ml at 11:00 AM Friday
   25 ng/ml at 4:00 PM Friday
 12.5 ng/ml at 9:00 PM Friday
 6.25 ng/ml at 2:00 AM Saturday
3.125 ng/ml at 7:00 AM Saturday (time of the race release)

Herein, lies the problem, any sample collected prior to basketing the birds for the race, will not accurately reflect the amount of the substance present in the bird at the time of the race release.

Do racing pigeons have the same rate of metabolization of caffeine as do humans?  Probably not, but the above example demonstrates the challenges one faces when applying test results taken 36 hours prior to a race, to the actual amount present in a racing pigeon at the time of the race release.

Remember, when horses and greyhounds are tested at the race track, their samples are collected within an hour of the finish of the race and as such, these tests are an accurate snapshot of the amount present during the race.  In racing pigeons we are collecting a sample up to 36 hours prior to the race, and these samples will not correlate at all with the amount of a substance present in the racing pigeon at the time of the race. 

One other important consideration is that often the sample source is not the same at racetracks and at racing pigeon clubs.  For example, at race tracks they take blood as the sample used to test for some substances.  In the pigeon sport, on the other hand, we are relegated to depending exclusively upon “dropping” samples, which are a combination of fecal and urine sources.

When one compares the results from blood test to the results from urine samples, one must correct for the differences in the sample source.  For many substances, a urine sample will have 1.6 times as much of an ingredient than will the blood sample taken at the same time for comparison.   A urine sample will have 4.0 times as much of an ingredient than will a plasma/serum sample taken at the same time for comparison.  So, if we were to take a threshold limit for a substance that was collected as a blood sample, and attempt to apply that threshold to a urine sample we must allow at least 1.6 times the blood sample threshold limit.

You may be asking why is there such a difference between a urine sample and a blood sample and the answer is simply that the liver is metabolizing and breaking down substances and the kidneys are filter and flushing them out, with the end result being that often more of a substance ends up being flushed out into the urine than is allowed to remain un-metabolized in the blood.  Also, a certain percentage of any substance just never gets absorbed but passes out through the digestive tract.  When taking blood or urine samples, this unabsorbed amount is of no consequence as urine and blood samples are only dealing with that portion of the test substance which was absorbed and then routed to either the blood stream (blood sample) or flushed out in the urine (urine sample).

When one is utilizing a fecal / urine sample like what we collect from racing pigeons, we are not only collecting the sample amount passed in the urine but also the amount passed in its raw form, in the feces.  Therefore, in some cases, like when testing for caffeine, theophyline or theobromine, one must account for the raw unabsorbed or undigested amount that passes in the fecal matter.  Urine tests and blood tests do not take this amount into account when establishing threshold limits, since there is no fecal contribution present in the urine or blood samples.

So, if a threshold limit was 200 ng/ml for a blood sample taken within one hour of a horse race, then when applying that threshold limit to a racing pigeon fecal / urine sample one might need to, first of all, adjust the threshold limit for a urine sample by a factor of 1.6 raising the threshold to 320 ng/ml.  Then one might have to adjust the threshold limit for the fecal contribution depending on the substance being tested for, so if caffeine, we might correct by a factor of 20% raising the threshold limit to 384 ng/ml.  Then if collecting the sample 36 hours prior to the race, we might need to adjust that threshold limit to somewhere between 4000 – 40000 ng/ml because the half life of caffeine has not been determined in pigeons, but is about 5 hours in a human and at the human half life rate (see example above), the time corrected sample would be as much as 100 times less that the amount in the sample 36 hours prior to the race release.

Back in the Fall of 2011, I received an email from one of my customers, who had failed one of these NYC area club drug tests after one of his birds won a top capital prize in their race.  He asked for my assistance and this is when I became involved with investigating the whole subject of drug testing on pigeons.  He reported to me that the test results for the sample taken from his birds registered 101 ng/ml of theophylline and 53 ng/ml of theobromine.

Here is the rub, most race tracks in the USA, allow a threshold / regulatory limit of 400 ng/ml for theophylline in urine and  a threshold / regulatory limit of 2000 ng/ml for theobromine in urine.  However, the Florida racing commission has set their threshold / regulatory limit to 400 ng/ml for theobromine in urine.

Do you see the problem here?  The data from the above racing pigeon test result reported to me would not have caused a race horse to fail a drug test,  And the race horse sample would have been collected within an hour of the actual race and not (as in the case of racing pigeons) collected 36+ hours prior to the racing pigeon event.

The problem I believe is that the labs which the State Horse Racing Commissions use to test race horse samples, are required to report the presence of a substance if the concentration is at least 20 ng/ml in urine.  Unfortunately, these racing pigeon clubs, who ask for the same testing procedures as those being applied to race horses and greyhounds, are unaware of the rules and regulations of the State Horse Racing Commissions, and therefore, do not realize that reporting the presence of a substance does not in and of itself, disqualify the race horse from winning the race.  Failing a drug test only happens if the test sample exceeds the threshold / regulatory limits.

Unfortunately, these officers in the several clubs of the NYC area, adjacent NJ area and Long Island, have not been properly trained in how to interpret these test results. In fact, many are not even able to collect and diagnose their own fecal float samples, let alone deal with the complicated task of converting test results and threshold limits for horses over to the racing pigeon sport.

These officers are acting in a vacuum and are declaring fanciers as having failed drug test, when in fact they have not failed those drug tests.  The end result of this activity is that not only has a fancier’s reputation been tarnished for life, but Peta then uses these incorrect “certified” failed drug test to “prove” to state’s Attorney Generals, and all of the largest newspapers in the country, that we in the racing pigeon sport, routinely dope our birds for the sole purpose of winning and to profit from illegal gambling.

This gives the false appearance, that we do not care about the well being of our birds and only care about gambling and winning at any cost.   Which is just the picture that Peta wants to paint concerning the sport of racing pigeons.

I think that very good people in our sport, have been crushed by the unintended ignorance of drug testing committees, which convict them of “doping” their birds, when in reality, the threshold limits applied (if any) to the test sample results are not corrected for the unique conditions which differentiate racing pigeon events from horse and dog racing events.

These drug testing policies are doing extreme harm to our sport, and cast a false shadow of “doping” and inhumane treatment of animals on our sport and all of its members.  I urge all racing pigeon fanciers to not support any of these races, with their entries, for so long as they continue to act against the best interest of our sport and continue to pursue drug testing policies that produce false results and cause irreparable harm to the reputations of honorable fanciers in our sport.

Legend:

IF: International Federation (one of two national racing pigeon organizations in the United States)
NYC: New York City
NJ: New Jersey

Comentarios

John,

As I understand, you believe there is no doping problem in racing pigeon sport because the threshold limits are not corrected for the unique conditions of pigeon racing? Are you joking?
However I read clearly that those birds were tested positive for prohibitive substances. So I also conclude those racing pigeon fanciers doped their birds.

On what grounds do you believe that the technology in the drug testing industry has far outstripped the technological expertise asked by local officers? It’s not a question of testing equipment, but a queston of real facts.

In my opinion, we should not set a threshold limit above which the sample must register before it is considered as a positive test for the substance. Doing so, we encourage cocktail use as we know it in cycling.

In racing pigeons, we should not take the sample anywhere from 12 – 36 hours prior to or after the race release. We better should take the accurate “dropping” sampels on basketing day and basketing place. At that time the rate of the breakdown of prohibited substances only began and on the contrary, it will accurately reflect the amount of the substance present in the bird at that time because of administration just before.

Doing so, we avoid breakdown problems or threshold discussions and there is not a single reason to compare the results from blood test to the results from urine samples. In my opinion, we must never correct with regulatory limit in case of obvious presence of prohibited substances!

Our fancier’s reputation cannot been tarnished for life when some fanciers failed drug tests and are estimated to routinely dope their birds for the sole purpose of winning and to profit from gambling. Our individual reputation is only tarnished when our name is mentioned among them.

So, I hope these club drug testings are to be continued for the benefit of clean pigeon racing. On the contrary, participating on these club races, is supporting the best interest of our sport and proves a humane treatment of our pigeons by honorable fanciers. We should not keeping up appearances and pretending our nose is bleeding.

In Chicago we have the some problem no one want to test the bird a specialty Chlebek Mr. Green

Proxy,

I do not even know where to start. Maybe if you actually re read the article a few times you will get the points being discussed.

You wrote: "As I understand, you believe there is no doping problem in racing pigeon sport because the threshold limits are not corrected for the unique conditions of pigeon racing? Are you joking?
However I read clearly that those birds were tested positive for prohibitive substances. So I also conclude those racing pigeon fanciers doped their birds."

My reply:

You are the poster child, for why people like you should not be interpreting drug test results.

You are in direct contradiction with every drug testing organization in the world. Each and every one of these organizations understands that they have to apply threshold limits, above which a sample must register before there is a violation.

Now the scientists (who have Masters and Doctorate degrees in Chemistry, Pharmacology, Physiology, Biology and Veterinary / Animal Science), working at the regulatory agencies for each state that oversees drug testing for race horses and greyhounds, have decided that threshold limits are necessary or there would be no horses or dogs qualified to race.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that developed drug testing criteria for the Olympics (and most all other athletic events) has threshold limits on all their controlled or prohibited substances.

If you have information which contradicts the findings of the WADA and all the governmental regulatory agencies then please speak up and educate us about you qualifications and your scientific findings.

Until then, do not take it upon yourself to interpret drug test results on racing pigeons and do not encourage others at your level of understanding to do likewise (interpret drug test results). There are scientifically established criteria that must be followed in order to correctly interpret drug test results.

John,

I am just a flemish fancier, being very angry about drugs administration to racing pigeons. I might also be possible that I did not get the points being discussed in the article because of linguistic reasons? I apologise! And I also can be in direct contradiction with every (?) drug testing organization in the world, concerning threshold limits, above which a sample must register before there is a violation.

However I was not interpreting drug test results of race horses, greyhounds and athlets. I do not contradict those developed drug testing criteria or threshold limits on prohibited substances.

But I was talking about pigeons and as I understood there are at the moment no threshold limits? By absence of regulatory limits and in case of obvious presence of prohibited substances, I think is it adjusted to conclude that those fanciers doped their birds. Why and how should we then try to interprete these drug tests?

It is abvious that those birds were tested positive for prohibitive substances and above all, threshold limits only depends on the moment of taking the sample. In my opinion, we should only take them on basketing day and basketing place. At that time the rate of the breakdown of prohibited substances only began and it will then accurately reflect the amount of the substance present in the bird at that time because of administration just before.

What wrong with that vision? I am not a scientist and just taking my freedom of opinion. And believe me, threshold limits are stimulating the use of drug cocktails as we know them in many sports, in spite of all those regulatory agencies! Don’t be offenced.

So let me get this right all the the F----g cheaters that there birds tested positive for drugs are in fact innocent. We should blame in fact modern technology because now they are able to properly and accurately test for performance enhancement drugs. Are you serious. I fly in the NYC area and I do participate in those races that test for drugs, but my birds never tested positive. In the last couple of years many lofts had failed the dope tests. Fanciers that claimed they were the masters of the game and sold birds for thousands of dollars. Now we are find out that they were nothing but fakes and cheaters. I am glad what the Bronx is doing here in NYC and what other clubs are doing in regards to this major problem. We all know what we put in our birds.

Proxy, Now I must apologize, as your command of English is so good, that I did not realize it was not your native language. I can see now how there could be problems based solely on translation.

Anghel98, I am ashamed by what the clubs have done in your area. Did they find some real drug abuse maybe, but I am sure they unjustly labeled many innocent fanciers as dopers because the drug testing committee did not understand how to properly interrupt the drug tests.

You guys are about 30 years behind the State of New York and the State of New Jersey in how they determine threshold limits at race tracks. They have the science you have shadowy innuendo. Come out into the light and explain how you decide the proper threshold limits for the substances you are testing. You are like the flat earth people who will not tolerate anyone who says the earth is round.

I have talked with the drug testing company your clubs use to test your samples and in my conversation, they agreed with me that scientifically established threshold limits are essential in order to protect the innocent. When their report say “suspect” for an ingredient, that does not mean the amount was sufficient to render any advantage on race day, only that it was detectable by the testing equipment, at minuscule amounts. Now, the scientists employed by the states of New York and New Jersey understand this and account for it in their drug testing policies. Unfortunately, your clubs ignore the science and go on witch hunts instead.

I have spent over 100 hours during the past 14 months, reviewing the drug polices of WADA and the many states Racing Commissions. I have confidence in their experts and their scientific studies. I have no confidence in your clubs ignoring the concept of rational threshold limits.

In our country, they say that 80% of the paper money has cocaine on it. This is because some people use paper money to roll up into a tube and snort cocaine and others who handle cocaine also touch paper money. Paper money changes hands so often and touches other paper money so often that there is transference of the cocaine from one bill to another.

So, the police could put just about anyone in prison if they wanted to, because anyone carrying paper money, probably will have cocaine residual on some of that paper money. Legally, you are in possession of cocaine. However, police officers carry money also and if they enforce such a ridiculous interpretation of the law, soon all the police officers are also in prison.

Therefore, the police say that you must have more than a certain amount of cocaine before they will take legal action.

Let me give you another example, suppose one of your children has asthma and uses an inhaler to deliver medication to their lungs. They squeeze the inhaler and breathe the medication mist into their lungs. Now suppose that your child ask you to bring them their inhaler. Every time they use the inhaler, some of the mist sprays back on the inhaler and over multiple uses, this mist builds up so that when you pick up the inhaler you transfer some of the medication onto your hand. But, the amount is so small that you are not even aware that there is now medication on your hand.

Then you go into the loft and take a handful of grains and have some of your pigeons eat out of your hand. Now your pigeons have eaten grains with asthma medication on it and the medication has theobromine or some other controlled substance, in it. Then your birds are tested before a race and the results come back 20 parts per billion. Are you doping your birds? No, there would have to be 2000 parts per billion of theobromine to cause a benefit to the bird during the race.

Common sense tells us that many ingredients which might give an advantageous to an athlete, are so common in the environment, that it is nearly impossible not to come in contact with those ingredients, Such as coffee, poppy seeds, inhalers, chocolate, tea, etc.

In order to only catch the guilty and not the innocent, a limit is set and only amounts above that limit are considered as doping. This limit is called the "threshold limit". The purpose is to stop dopers who are giving a therapeutic dose of an ingredient in order to gain an advantage during the race. The presence of a inconsequential non therapeutic quantity of a substance which gives no advantage but is simply incidental, is of no concern to the state regulatory agencies, nor should it be to the clubs in NYC, NJ and long Island.

In the USA, one in 12 have asthma and those that take medication and inhalers come into contact daily with bronchodilators, mast cell stabilizers and inhaled corticosteroids. It is unrealistic to suggest that pigeon fanciers, who have children or spouses which take the medication, that they are not going to transfer small amounts of these ingredients to their birds, without even knowing they have do it.

Since a few parts per billion will have no therapeutic value to the bird nor increase their chances of winning a race, rational drug testing officials, set threshold limits to separate the doping abusers from people who just come into contact with an ingredient because it is in their environment. It is not that the ingredient is present, it is rather that the ingredient is present in amounts able to give an advantage on race day that should be of interest to racing pigeon fanciers.

Current drug testing equipment is so sensitive that it can find as little as one part per billion, yet the amount necessary to affect the outcome of a pigeon race might be 300 parts per billion or 2000 parts per billion, depending on the substance being tested.

Once you accept that threshold limits are necessary, the next step is to determine what are the correct threshold limits for racing pigeons. Since hundreds of millions of dollars has been spent determining what the threshold limits should be for humans, horses and dogs, I believe we should consider using those limits for racing pigeons.

Unfortunately, the pigeon clubs I mention in my article, do not even use the common threshold limits already in existence.

I believe that drug testing of racing pigeons is possible and even advantageous. There are some substances like steroids, opiates and NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), that have no business being found in a drug test, and these substances should have a very low threshold limit. But there are other substances that are so common in the environment, that it is impossible not to come in contact with them.

Threshold limits are not there to protect the guilty, they are there to protect the innocent. Police officers have flunked drug test because of a positive test for opiates. Further investigation showed that the officers ate bagels with poppy seed on them. The amount of poppy seeds on each bagel was small, but the do contain a tiny amount of opiates in them. The officers did not lose their jobs, because their test amount was below the threshold limit.

Pigeon fanciers buy grain from feed companies, and feed companies have their grains delivered in bulk usually by rail car. What the grain company does not know is what ingredient was in the rail car before the grains were loaded. If it was coco bean husk or coffee beans or chocolate or tea leafs or poppy seeds, or any of a long list of food ingredients that contain small amounts of substances being tested for, then the grains will be contaminated and the birds will test positive for small amounts of a controlled substance. But, the amount of the substance will be to small to give any benefit in performance. It is called environmental contamination and it is impossible to protect yourself from it unless you test each load of grains for those substances.

Threshold limits are put in place to protect innocent people who have no intention of taking a drug but who come in contact with a substance without knowledge that they have done so.

I am not saying don't test, I am saying don't be stupid when you test and never do harm to innocent people. Before you ruin someone's reputation, rise to the standard set by the horse racing and dog racing testing agencies and list the threshold limits you use and how they were derived.

If you are proud of what you are doing, be transparent about it and above board. Let everyone know that you actually have the science to back up your decision. Is that really to much to ask before you ruin someone reputation in our sport?

I am racing in the N.Y. area.There is a mob mentality concerning Drug Testing!!The average person does not want to deal with the insanity of the DRUG TESTING ZSARS.
If you dare to question anything it is similar to questioning someones religion.Voices get raised and immediately you are considered an enemy of the sport.
Now we have groups of people who will not fly races that have anyone they consider a DRUGGY flying.
There is such confusion and anger that I believe this will destroy the sport of racing pigeons. People get accused by others who are flying in the race and there is very little you can do to defend yourself.Once you are labeled they (THE DRUG ZCARS) begin a campaign to destroy you.
If the testing is considered by the DRUG ZCARS to be accurate then why not test the people they suspect and if they test positive(whatever that means?)disqualify them and not refund their entry fee or pay any prizes.If people believe what they are preaching this would work.
By the way some people have been labeled DRUGGYS and have not won or even placed well in the race which is accusing them.
So you can have poor performing birds and still be accused.Something is not logical.
HAVE A NICE DAY!

John,

Thank you very much for bringing this up and providing us valuable information. It is about time this drug testing issue is discussed and I hope our national organizations will come up with guidelines regarding this very sensitive issue. I fly pigeons here in NJ and I know some fanciers who have been breeding and racing pigeons successfully for years get maligned and become the butt of jokes by some. Their reputations forever tarnished, due to this ridiculous drug testing policy started by some clubs here in our area. It is very unfair for these poor folks who have been labeled cheaters because of irresponsible club officers.

In reality, the drug testing being done by these clubs is very questionable. You already mentioned the possibility of environmental contamination which can happen to everybody. Another problem is the possibility of contamination starting from collecting the droppings to the handling of these droppings. Anything can happen when pigeons are put in cages to collect droppings where all around, there are people smoking, drinking coffee, etc. I personally witnessed one time when droppings were collected by a person after sipping from his cup of coffee. Can we honestly say that there was no possibility of contamination there?

If we really want to test, it should be done in the proper way and results interpreted correctly. There is no other way, because reputations are being destroyed. I really hope our national organizations can do something about this before it becomes a bigger problem.

Thanks.

Though I have voiced concerns about replies posted by Proxy and Anghel98, I am also in support with some of their underlying concerns.

We have European fanciers come over to the USA and give seminars on an annual basis. During these seminars, these "Top Performing" fanciers often share their secrets for winning. I have to admit, that some of what they profess to do, may not be doping by the letter of the law, but certainly seem to be doping by the spirit of the law.

I also would be upset, if I had to compete against fanciers utilizing these techniques, as I believe they are not for the benefit of the bird but only for the self aggrandizement of the fancier and for profits that follows top performances.

In the USA, we also have fanciers that follow these same practices and I find it destructive to the sport, as it disadvantageous fanciers who understand that antibiotics are not to be used "off label" and that anti parasitic medications and vaccines should not be used to manipulate the immune response.

Just one person's opinion

Dear John,

I am convinced you are an honest and well educated man and I approve for your support to innocent people. However do we really have to believe there are but angels in heaven and not be fair enough to admit that the racing pigeon sport has a doping problem?

Drug testing equipment today routinely reports indeed the presence of a substance in parts expressed in nano grams per milliliter (ng / ml) and no longer in micro grams per milliliter (μg / ml). It’s great this testing equipment of today makes it nearly impossible not to detect the presence of many of the substances we routinely test for.

When a pigeon is tested positive for controlled or prohibitive substances , the origine of contamination can be due to a.o. medical treatments, environmental or (in)direct administration by the fancier. Even the rare possibility of contamination starting from collecting the droppings to the handling of these droppings.

I think we might interpretate these individual test results based on guidelines by our national organizations all over the world or they could adjust for the high sensitivity of drug testing equipment today by setting a threshold limit above which the sample must register before it is considered as a positive test for the substance. What should they take into consideration for a decision?

John, in your opinion (as I understood) drug testing results and consequently threshold limits should only be taken into account from “accurate” sampling just before or after the moment of a race?
In a way I disagree with that point of view because I my opinion fanciers ought never to be allowed to administer forbidden or prohibited substances to their pigeons at any time, not before, not during and not after the race.

Therefore we only should take samples in the presence of the (indicated) owners on basketing day and at basketing place. At that time the birds are still under their guidance and responsability. The rate of the breakdown of prohibited substances only just began and tests will then accurately reflect the amount of the substance present in the bird at that time in case of cheating because of administration just before.

Doing so, we avoid breakdown problems or threshold discussions and there is also not a single reason to compare the results from blood test to the results from urine samples. In my opinion, at that time of sampling we very carefully should correct or not with regulatory threshold limits because the presence of prohibited substances will be substantial. If not, there can be no advantage during the upcoming race.

In order only to catch the guilty and not the innocent and only for a sampling on basketing day it could be wise to set nevertheless some threshold limits for accidental contamination due to a.o. medical treatments, environmental or indirect administration by the fancier. However when forbidden substances under threshold limits are found repeately with the same fancier, he should be excluded from races as a suspect for using drug cocktails. The purpose is to stop dopers who are giving doses of different ingredients in order to gain an advantage during the race.

Doing so, I think no innocent fanciers has to be unjustly labeled as dopers because we all know what we put in our birds. Then we might relay upon a waterlevelline in spite of the fact the earth is round and not flat!

The European fanciers coming over to the USA and professing their destructive techniques ought to be scandalized. These practices ruines pigeon sport because they indeed use antibiotics ‘off label’, antiparasitics and vaccines to boost at racing day by manipulating the immune response. It’s about time all this issues are to be discussed and no longer tolerated for the benefit and survival of our pigeon sport.

A angry but optimistic man from Flandres. Best regards.

Proxy,

You questions are so broad that I cannot answer them. You should at this point give the name of a substance you think should be handled a particular way.

I say this because there are over 500 substances that are either controlled or prohibited. These substances are then divided into 5 sub categories and even within these sub categories, different ingredients are treated differently.

Many ingredients have a withdrawal time. These ingredients are considered useful in maintaining health and a veterinarian might use them in the humane treatment of a horse, greyhound or pigeon. However, using this ingredient right up until the start of the race, could contribute to advantage on race day. In order to act humanely towards animals we do not prohibit the use of the products, we only recommend a withdrawal time beyond which the use of this ingredient should stop, in order to make sure it is not present in quantities exceeding the threshold limit at the time of a race.

We do not want to stop humane or reasonable usage of ingredients that have legitimate applications in maintaining the health of our animals, we only want to make sure that these ingredients are withdrawn from usage prior to the race. Therefore, we recommend a withdrawal period. If you use the ingredient after the recommended withdrawal period, then it will likely fail the drug test and you will be disqualified from the race.

Now some substances must never test above the threshold limits, no matter when a test sample is collected. Other substances are allowed as humane treatments of the animal but must be withdrawn prior to a race, so as not to exceed the threshold limits. What we strive for is know the difference.

When considering the 500+ substances, we cannot treat all of them exactly the same. Some have legitimate usage just not within a day or two of the race. Withdrawal times are usually 24 - 36 hours prior to the race. Some substances have withdrawal times as high as 96 hours.

So you see, we cannot use blanket statements about controlled or prohibited substances as all substances are not the same and some are useful and it is humane to use them, under reasonable guidelines. But if you have to continue to use them after the recommended withdrawal time, you should not race that bird as it is not physically healthy enough to compete successfully in a race.

To answer one of your other questions, I believe that a drug test can be given at any time, but the threshold limits are time sensitive. For example, threshold limits for race horses are set based on the test being conducted within one hour of the race. It would make little sense to use the same threshold limits for a sample collected a week after the race and for the same reasons, use the same threshold limits for a sample collected a week before the race.

Let us not reinvent the wheel. The World Anti Doping Agency and the many regulatory agencies for horse racing and dog racing, have spent 10's of millions of Euros, scientifically determining what a threshold limit should be at a particular time period, either prior to or after a race.

Let us understand the wisdom to be found in these regulations and adapt them to the needs of our sport.

Concerning another point you bring up:

"However when forbidden substances under threshold limits are found repeatedly with the same fancier, he should be excluded from races as a suspect for using drug cocktails. The purpose is to stop dopers who are giving doses of different ingredients in order to gain an advantage during the race."

I agree with you and that is why drug testing laboratories are required to report all amounts of substances found but that the governing regulators only act if that amount is above the threshold limit. The regulators keep track of the owners and when a pattern of many tests just below the threshold limit appear, they can take action for habitual abuse.

There are mechanisms to use to find these abusers and to sanction them.

Let me give you an example, suppose that 1000 test a week were done in Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and Germany. If a certain ingredient "X", has a threshold limit of 200 ng / ml, and if the average reported amount of substance "X" for all 1000 tests was 80 ng / ml but "Mr. Big Name Fancier" consistently tests at between 140 - 180 ng / ml, then the testing organization might lower the threshold limit or impose an "averaged" threshold limit. For example if you score above 160 twice in one year, you are sanctioned.

You might require that chronic abusers only be allowed to administer the ingredient in question under the guidance of a veterinarian, and that the veterinarian is authorized by the testing organization to supervise the offender.

The testing organization could require weekly testing of fanciers that exceeded 140 ng / ml, and when two test exceeded 160, disqualify them. I am not saying these numbers are correct I use them only for discussion.

However, we are putting the carriage before the horse. First, establish threshold limits based on the science that has already been done by the anti doping agencies for humans, horse and dogs. Then fine tune those limits for the unique problems we face in the racing pigeon sport.

John,

I have to conclude that I am certainly not at your level of knowledge and not at all qualified to discuss with you drug abuse in pigeon racing in a scientific way. I have to rely on some common sense but emotionally involved, I perhaps jumped too soon to some wrong conclusions? Thank you for reponding and explaining things. I hope with you authorities are able to fine tune those limits for the unique problems we face in the racing pigeon sport.

Best regards

Proxy,

Don't stop, you have pushed me to formulate first in my head, then in this forum, the sum of what I have learned reading many papers and regulation on drug testing. It is important to understand that there are legitimate uses of substances and also illegitimate uses of substances.

You and I both believe that some in the sport are pushing very close to "doping" in how they medicate their birds in the days leading up to a race release. It is within the abilities of the national organizations to screen for abuse and put an end to it. I know that what goes on at some fancier's lofts, in preparation for a big race, would never be tolerated by the horse racing and dog racing regulators.

Your enthusiasm to bring these practices to an end, is admirable and I share your goals. Understanding the pitfalls of enforcement also allows us to know the proper application of threshold limits and withdrawal times. Equipped with this knowledge, we can screen for those who have to much medications or antibiotics in their birds leading up to the race.

As far as I am concerned, there is nothing in the definition of "sport" that allows fanciers to use antibiotics, vaccines and medications "off label" without the supervision of a veterinarian approved by the national racing organizations.

I think that your "calls to action" and my agreement with "caution", has led us to realize that if the "will" existed, the national organizations could use testing to screen for those who might be abusing medications, vaccines and antibiotics, and begin to exert control over the situation.

I am sure that there are others who believe that everything is fine just the way it is.

I want to finish by saying that, all that I have written is my opinion on the matter, based on reading what information I could find and applying that information with what I hope is "common sense". I do not claim to be an expert on the subject and realize that others might come to different conclusions than those that I have outlined in the original article and any follow up postings on this forum.

My conclusions are that interrupting drug test results is not for amateurs but rather for those trained in the science. Preserving the reputations of good fanciers require that every caution is exercised to make sure that test are interrupted correctly.

Concerning the secondary topic that has developed discussing "off label" use of medications, that is an ethical question. Lacking direction from the national organizations, this issue becomes a matter of personal conscience.

Those that believe as I do, in the superiority of the natural immune response, should follow in the footsteps of the likes of Emile Matterne, who never seemed to suffer on race days from a lack of medicating, but rather put his trust in breeding generations of winners with incomparable natural immune response.

Just one person's opinion,

John Vance

hello everybody!i think for long distance races ,800-1200km,, when birds stay, few days in the transporyaTION TRUCK it will. not help any kind of drugs,. its just my opinion.,, best regards

Thanks for all the comments to this article, which was originally sent out as an email to about 20 people and then went viral being published here on the Pigeon Paradise website, the Racing Pigeon Digest and the Australian Racing Pigeon Journal. I think the topic was ready to be discussed.

Based on the comments and questions that I have received both here on this forum and via emails from the readers of the Racing Pigeon Digest and the Australian Racing Pigeon Journal, I am preparing a follow-up article.

Some great questions were asked here on the forum and if there are any additional questions or comments anyone would like to share, I would appreciate hearing from you. All of the posts listed here, both favorable and unfavorable, have been beneficial in clarifying the issues that remain unanswered.

I personally, have never been in a club that conducted drug testing and do not believe that, except in few areas, drug tests is even being administered to race birds. However, as has been pointed out here in the forum and in personal emails that I have received, some fanciers believe that drug tests should be conducted, on a more regular basis, and that certain "off label" uses of antibiotics, medications and vaccines, should be monitored and reported in those drug test results.

Though my article was directed towards drug testing being conducted in an area of the United States centered around the New York City area, I would like to know more about what kind of drug testing is being conducted in other areas of the world.

Please let me know what you think is important to advance this topic. It would help me shape the direction of my next article on the topic.

Thanks for all the valuable input which you have already shared here in this forum, it has been very helpful in clarifying what you think is important, on the subject.