Veterinarian: Horse racing will ban steroid use

ELMONT, N.Y. -- The steroid era in American thoroughbred racing will be over in 2009, noted track veterinarian Larry Bramlage told ESPN.com on Friday.

Bramlage, a member of the Jockey Club Thoroughbred Safety Committee, said the blue-ribbon panel will make a public recommendation next week that steroids be banned throughout the United States. Although it is only a recommendation, Bramlage said he anticipates unanimous agreement in the 28 states that currently allow steroid use in racehorses.

"I don't think you'll see it next year," Bramlage said from Belmont Park, where he will serve as one of the on-call veterinarians for the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. "It'll be illegal nationwide."

Bramlage said steroids are "a useful tool" for thoroughbreds because they helps them withstand the wear and tear of racing. They keep their appetite up and help them recover from races. He also said "most all" trainers use them, but a small percentage abuse them.

"It's difficult to know when it's use and when it's abuse, so we'll ban them all," he said.

Steroids and other medications became a front-burner issue after the fatal breakdown of Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby on May 3. Eight Belles did not test positive for any steroid, but the latest in a string of high-profile accidents triggered calls for the racing industry to examine its practices. That led to the formation of the Jockey Club panel, which will announce a broad range of recommendations next week.

Steroid use also made news this Triple Crown season when Big Brown trainer Rick Dutrow acknowledged he gives his star colt and all his horses injections of Winstrol in the middle of every month. But Dutrow said this week that Big Brown hadn't received an injection before the Kentucky Derby since April 15.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com.