Doping in pigeon racing

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Doping in pigeon racing is the practice of giving performance-enhancing drugs to avian racers. The drugs are used to produce similar effects to those found in human athletes, building up muscle tissue and opening the respiratory tracts. In addition, corticosteroids can be used to delay moulting, allowing a bird to race late into a season.[1]

In October 2013, blood samples from twenty Belgian pigeons were sent by the Pigeon Fanciers Association to South Africa for testing. This was the result of an exchange visit by the association to the National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa.[2] While tests in Belgium had not found traces of any drugs the South African laboratory discovered that six samples contained unusual substances. Five samples were found to include traces of Mobistix, aka acetaminophen a widely used over-the-counter analgesic (pain reliever) and antipyretic (fever reducer). The sixth sample was erroneously reported in the press as having showed indication of cocaine use, but the lab reported that it was indications of caffeine usage.[3] As the samples were sent anonymously no action could be taken against the owners of any of the birds.[4]

In 2001 a series of raids across 80 homes led to the confiscation of large quantities of illegal performance-enhancers.[1][5] Currently, all race winners are tested and over 100 samples were collected and tested in 2013.

In 1995 the Belgian Ministry of Health mandated drug testing in order to protect the welfare of the birds.[1] The sport's governing body is now looking at the possibility of implementing new anti-doping rules for the sport prior to the commencement of the 2014 season.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Carreyrou, John (12 November 2004). "Doping scandal hits pigeon racing". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 26 October 2013 – via 
  2. ^ "Racing pigeons in Belgium flying high on coke, painkillers". Telegraph. 25 October 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Martens, Martin (7 July 2013). "Het dopingdossier van de KBDB blijft de tongen beroeren". PIPA. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Gallagher, Paul (25 October 2013). "World of pigeon racing rocked by doping scandal". Independent. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  5. ^ Pearson, Harry (6 February 2009). "Stone the crows, and other tales of bird doping". Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2013.