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The latest ‘fad drug’, which has also raised concerns with racing officials in Australia, sees xenon and argon gases extracted from refrigerators and in some cases, lightbulbs, then administered to the horses through a nebuliser.
Industry veteran David Phillips, who previously raised concerns with Harness Racing New Zealand about another performance-enhancing method, blood spinning, is now concerned about the use of xenon gas, which he calls “a modern-day racehorse enhancer.”
Inhaling the gas boost levels of erythropoietin in the body which in turn stimulates the production of red blood cells, increasing the amount of oxygen the horse is able to carry and increasing its stamina.
Racing Integrity Unit general manager Mike Godber said he was aware of the substance, which is prohibited.
However, he would not comment as to whether the RIU is investigating anyone over the use of the substance.
It comes after HRNZ revealed new rules this week around the process of blood spinning
The Star previously reported on concerns about the process, also known as ACS or PRP, which involves collecting blood from the horse using a needle, processing it in a laboratory, and then re-injecting it back into the horse.
The new rules state that any withdrawal of blood from a horse for the purpose of manipulating it or to reintroduce any cells or products to it is now banned, except when done for therapeutic use by a veterinary professional.
All joint injections in racehorses are now banned for eight clear days prior to racing, in comparison to the previous rule which allowed it up to one clear day of racing.
Anyone who breaches the rules could face a fine of up to $20,000 and could be disqualified or suspended from holding or gaining a licence for up to five years.
A horse connected with a breach of the rules would be disqualified from racing up for up to five years.