In Sweden, it is a dog against dopers
Past Bill Finley
In Swedish racing, there is a new tool used to catch drug cheating, one with four legs and a wet nose.
A 2 1/2-year-old giant schnauzer named Lykke (Swedish for happiness) has been put to work by the Swedish Trotting Association (ST) as part of eradicating cheating. Happiness can detect the presence of illegal substances in a horse by smelling the urine.
– It is impossible to say how common doping would be in Swedish trotting, but it would be naive of me to believe that doping does not exist at all, says Mattias Falkbage, head of investigation at Swedish Trotting. “We take our anti-doping work very seriously and Lykke is our newest tool in the fight against doping.”
Lykke is not yet used with Thoroughbreds, which is a smaller sport in Sweden and much less widespread than Standardbred racing.
Lykke is owned and trained by Fia Mardfelt and was enrolled in the dog training program Hundcampus, where dogs during a one-year program are taught to smell for such things as explosives, illegal human drugs and gas leaks. It was Mardfelt’s idea to teach Lykke to look for illegal drugs in horses and she reached out to Swedish Trotting with a suggestion that they recruit the dog in the fight against doping.
“Happiness has been shown to have all the qualities needed for a dog to work with search assignments at this level,” said Mardfelt. “His personal qualities combined with an enormous analytical ability make him a fantastic tool.”
Falkbage and his team liked the idea and took Lykke on board this spring and started training him specifically to find drugs in horses. Lykke officially started his assignments about three weeks ago. His driver uses him on the race track on race days and also at training centers, where Lykke is used for tests outside the race.
“That’s what’s unique, I have not read of any other dogs smelling urine that way,” said Falkbage. If the dog smells of any substance in the urine, it makes a mark and then we take samples, blood, urine, hair. The dog points us in the right direction as far as who we are going to test. What he does is not enough to get a positive result in the courts. We also have to take samples. Happiness only shows the way for us. ”
Agneta Sandberg, animal welfare specialist at Swedish Trotting, said that Lykke has just started.
“Since last spring, Lykke has been trained in several preparations and we will train more and more as time goes on. Lykke’s capacity is large and there are almost no restrictions on his sensitive nose “, she said.
Lykke is just a tool for a sport that is focused on ending cheating and has already implemented many of the tools that the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said it will use in the US thoroughbred racing when and if it is responsible to monitor the sport. Samples are frozen and tested again at a later time in the hope that new tests are developed to find previously undetectable substances. A tiplina has been installed and whistleblowers are encouraged. Samples are sent to international labs. Additional labor has been brought in to increase application and tests outside competition are often done.
“It should be taboo and shameful to try to give oneself benefits by cheating through doping. Those who try to dope themselves, they should know that we work against them and we will never stop working against them. They should feel that we are there. They should know our presence, said Falkbage.
Having Happiness on board is a great help.
“Many people in Sweden talk about this,” said Falkbage. “Anyone who tries to cheat on the horse, they’re probably scared now. They do not know how much this dog can find.”
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