Drug testing for polo horses

By Chuck Weber email

WELLINGTON, FL (WFLX)-Polo horses will soon be subject to random drug testing. The move comes in response to the deaths of 21 polo ponies prior to a match in Wellington this past April.

Starting in January, the U.S. Polo Association will begin random drug testing of horses. It will be done on a trial basis at first, but eventually the program will become permanent, with penalties for violators.

Wellington equine veterinarian Dr. Bill Patterson headed a Polo Association committee formed after the horses' deaths. He acknowledged getting test results takes time, and in the April incident the polo ponies were dead before the match.

"By this program," said Dr. Patterson, "the deaths wouldn't have been absolutely prevented. But it's the philosophy and the education of the owners, players. There will be visible evidence we will not tolerate abnormal use of drugs or doping."

The horses died at International Polo Club Palm Beach, in Wellington. The club president, John Wash, said, "We'll get behind and champion anything we need to do for the safety of the horse, of the player. I don't think drug testing would have taken care of this problem. But I do think testing, if done the right way, can be a very good feature for the sport."

The season at International Polo Club begins January 3.