Friday, April 24, 2009

Polo Horses Deaths Caused By Supplement

The mysterious deaths of 21 polo horses are starting to unravel. The horses all received injections of a banned vitamin supplement used to fight off exhaustion and polo team members believe a tainted dose led to the deaths. There were five horses that did not receive injections and are fine.

The captain of the Lechuza Caracas polo team, Juan Martin Nero, told the Argentine newspaper La Nación, that all of the horses received injections of Biodyl before getting sick and dying.

"We don't have any doubts about the origin of the problem," Nero said. "There were five horses that weren't given the vitamin and they are the only ones that are fine."

Biodyl is a French-made supplement and is banned by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its sale or use in the United States is generally illegal, an FDA spokeswoman said. Selenium is a substance in Biodyl and can be toxic in large quantities.  B12 is also in Biodyl.

"Compounded" generic versions of the supplement may sometimes be bought with a prescription, FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey said. Compounding is the process of creating the supplement from basic ingredients. There is a greater likelihood of a tainted supplement through compounding then purchasing the commercial product.

"Compounding is allowed under very specific circumstances, but the purpose of compounding is to provide for an individual animal," DeLancey said. "You can't compound things just to sit on the shelf."

The horses had been injected with a compounded version produced on order by a pharmacy.

"For us, the suspicions are that there was something bad in the laboratory," Nero told La Nación. "They're common vitamins that aren't given to improve performance but rather to help them recover from exhaustion."

Nero is putting all the blame on the lab. Yet, his team hasn’t provided any samples of what was given to the horses on game day to investigators. Nor has the team’s veterinarian been available for comment. If there is nothing to hide, be forthcoming and transparent. Others in the polo community are questioning why vitamins were even administered on game day.

Neil Hirsch, who co-owns the Bridgehampton Polo Club on New York's Long Island, said, "Everybody gives their polo horses vitamins, but they're given on a Monday or Tuesday when no one's playing. You just don't give them the day of a match."

The death of these horses is tragic. Hiring a pharmacy to mix their own drugs because you can't obtain it legally here? Is the drug really that essential to your seems like it and I would consider it a PED if you are contracting out the manufacturing of it and then administering it on game day. An injection to fight exhaustion before the match when others are questioning that practice raises concerns about animal cruelty. Are the horses being overworked leading to exhaustion? Is the only way to compete in that sport with drugs? If so, why aren’t other teams doing so? Mr. Hirsch raises a valid point in stating that vitamins are given early in the week, when no one is playing, their bodies can fully benefit from the medicine, not hours before competition.

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