In a most significant ruling for Australian racing, and one likely to trigger criticism, the Australian Racing Board has announced a total ban on the use of anabolic steroids. Currently anabolic steroids are banned on raceday only with the new ban, to come into effect on May 1 next year, to include the use in and out of competition.

The new ban will apply to all thoroughbreds from the age of six months with that period allowed in the interests of animal welfare, an ARB statement issued this afternoon says.

ARC CEO, Peter McGauran had plenty to say on the issue: "The ban on anabolic steroids goes far beyond any other racing jurisdiction outside of Europe and was decided by the ARB Board after lengthy consideration of veterinary and scientific advice and consultation with trainers' and owners' associations...The ARB has adopted a zero tolerance policy to the use of anabolic steroids in competition, training and spelling and will institute heavy penalties for breaches of the ban.

"Foremost in the Board's consideration was the need for absolute integrity and public confidence in racing. Although the use of steroids has greatly diminished over the years to the point where they are rarely relied upon by trainers, the ARB believes it is in the best interests of the industry that they no longer be available for any purpose other than as a therapeutic treatment for young foals."

The rule will be introduced on November 1 with the ban to take effect from May 1, 2014, giving six months for a treated horse to be free of anabolic steroids.