AUSTRALIAN racing, already rocked by the widespread use of the outlawed cobalt chloride, have moved to head off the next worrying prohibitive substance on the black market, xenon gas by announcing a testing facility.

PATRICK BARTLEY reports in THE AGE that Sydney racing officials have not ruled out using the new capability to test frozen samples of swabs taken in the past.


Racing Integrity officers have warned trainers that a new testing laboratory has been established and that the use of the gas was against the rules of racing and they faced hefty penalties if discovered.

Stewards and vets have been working closely on the gas, maintaining it it will be a significant threat to racing in years to come. The new facility will be the German Sport University at Cologne.   

And pressure is mounting on racing authorities throughout Australia to begin outlawing the use of low-oxygen chambers or tents following the discovery they were being used to enhance the performance of racehorses.

The World Anti-Doping Agency have in the past few months banned the use of the Russian-developed gas.

The Australian Racing Board has allowed oxygen chambers and there are several at Flemington and Ballarat.

However, given that these chambers provide an opportunity for illicit xenon use, such chambers could be banned by the end of the racing season.

Fairfax Media has also been told that some trainers, incensed by the use of such chambers by fellow trainers, are making official complaints over the use.

And it's also understood that RVL integrity officers are monitoring the purchase of xenon gas, which is only available from a small number of specialist suppliers.

Both WADA rules and the Australian rules of racing ban synthetic EPO and HIF stabilisers as methods which artificially raise the levels of EPO and blood-doping.

Xenon has a similar action to cobalt as it increases HIF protein causing the body to increase EPO levels.   

However other methods of boosting EPO levels such as altitude training, exercising or sleeping in a low-oxygen chamber are allowed.

Racing analysts and sports scientists believe that xenon is being used in combination with low-oxygen tents, where xenon gas replaces oxygen.

Russian athletes were given a 50-50 xenon-oxygen mixture by a sealed breathing mask similar to a scuba apparatus.

In another study, mice were treated with a 70-30 xenon-oxygen mixture which significantly increased EPO levels.

Victorian trainers Peter Moody, Mark Kavanagh, Danny O'Brien and  Lee and Shannon Hope have had horses tested positive to cobalt.