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Alliance of Specialist Clubs Drug Abuse Meeting






by Mike Lakin

Drug Abuse: Do We Have a Problem?

‘Do we have a drug problem in the U.K.?’ was the first question asked when the meeting was opened to discuss the present day pigeon drug situation with several of the largest Classic and National clubs in attendance. The delegates from the C.S.C.F.C., B.I.C.C., N.R.C.C., N.W.C.C. and the M.N.F.C. were delighted that the World renowned Pigeon Veterinary Mr Henk de Weerd had flown from Holland to offer his much valued assistance along with Lee Fribbins of the R.P. and David Coward-Talbott of Belgica Vet Products on this racing pigeon related drug issue.

In answer to the opening question, the delegates present felt that at this time we cannot really answer the question with complete accurately in view of the headline news that has recently come from Belgium where a number of test samples have come back from the South African testing centre with a positive result of the samples containing traces of performance enhancing substances. This was the catalyst behind this meeting being called under the banner of the ‘Alliance of Specialist Clubs’ as all the organisations who responded to the arranged meeting are clearly concerned at the possibility of future U.K. ‘faeces testings’ carried out revealing positive findings.

There was great disappointment expressed by several of the delegates that though they had been invited our governing body the R.P.R.A. failed to attend the meeting and give us the benefit of their opinions on this pressing subject. Councillor Mr Ray Harris had intended to be in attendance but due to a hospital appointment at short notice couldn’t attend. Surely though more than one councillor should have wished to attend this important meeting? Whatever the reasons I and others feel the R.P.R.A. missed a golden opportunity to offer us a clear directive on this pressing issue.

We are indebted to Henk de Weerd for answering the many questions put to him by those in attendance. I will outline some of his opinions here. First of all there was some confusion to the fear that certain pigeon medications could contain possible illegal substances. The response was that as long as fanciers use treatments from a Licensed Veterinary supplier then this would not be the case. The same cannot be guaranteed with ‘under the counter’ products. Another question put forward was ‘How long after being administered could these banned substances be detected in the birds faeces?’. The reply that Henk gave was that it varies but the optimum time to take the samples would be at the time of marking. Scotland’s Dr Lynch was also in full agreement with Henk’s opinion. The tests it was felt could be more inconclusive if there was a long holdover before the samples were taken. To make the tests more certain Henk said that he would be happy to carry out tests free of any charge so that in the future he could give a more precise and measured answer to the question. Henk was also keen to point out that in the past some of the products that had been administered to pigeons in the past had a resulted in detrimental long term side affects such as infertility and other health problems.

Henk also said that the Drugs Issue should be dealt with taking into account the findings of all the Pigeon Racing governing bodies as this would possibly be a good ‘Think Tank’ and help to solve the current problem. Indeed the F.C.I. are planning to discuss the subject at their next meeting which is to be held on the 24th March. The ‘Alliance’ await their findings with great interest.

It was also outlined that the Irish Homing Union were also very proactive on the drugs issue and Eugene Fitzgerald has promised to keep us undated as they are currently carrying out research on the testing of a small feather. This it was felt could provide a more accurate guide to detect longer term drug abuse.

After much debate the main recommendations that were made are as follows:

1. That members must sign an agreement on the entry form to the possibility of their birds being tested. This is similar to the declaration that their birds have been inoculated against Paramyxo.

2. To avoid any legal ‘loop hole’ as it will be the member’s own basket that the faeces will be  to be taken from, that it is the member’s responsibility to make sure that their basket/crates is clean and has hasn’t been contaminated by anyone else’s pigeons. It was felt that this method will cause the least inconvenience to either the owner or his pigeons.

3. The samples taken will be of a completely random nature. So people chosen shouldn’t feel that they have been ‘targeted’ with any stigma being attached.

4. The MNFC delegates explained that they would wish for any pigeon supply manufacturers who either advertise in the pigeon press or who attend the many pigeon shows to sign an agreement that their products are ‘clean’ of any substances that could be on the RPRA  illegal products list. Perhaps then a similar logo like a kite mark could be introduced. This would mean that fanciers can purchase their products with confidence that they aren’t giving their birds any banned substances.

It is felt that if these actions are taken it will ensure that fanciers can enter their pigeons content that they are racing on a level playing field and without fear that they are unintentionally breaking any rules which would put them in jeopardy of suspension.

I will end this piece as I started it: ‘Do we have a drugs problem in the U.K.’? We are currently unsure but if the directives are followed it will go a long way in discouraging anyone who may be tempted to use a banned substance to gain any advantage because though we wish to catch any offenders, we would much rather it be a case of ‘prevention rather than cure’.  One thing is for sure many of the bigger organisations have a ‘zero tolerance’ to drug abuse and are determined to allay the fears of the majority of pigeon fanciers in this matter.

Mike Lakin on behalf of the Alliance of Specialist Clubs