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A shipment containing thousands of pounds worth of unlicensed veterinary goods — including steroids, bute and anti-inflammatories — was stopped and seized at Stansted Airport at the beginning of the summer (3 May), it has emerged.

The shipment is understood to have contained performance-boosting drugs. They were listed as “horse tack” and brought in on a private plane, which was seized by Border Force officers.

“These medications have the potential to be used to enhance performance in horses, as well as more routine use in general equine practice to combat disease,” said H&H vet Karen Coumbe.

Defra was informed and the drugs were destroyed. It is not known for where the shipment was bound.

Leading vets have expressed concern that the importation of illegal and unlicensed drugs from overseas poses a “real threat” to equine health and welfare.

Keith Chandler, president of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), told H&H: “Unlicensed drugs have not passed the UK’s stringent safety and efficacy tests and therefore there is a risk that they could cause serious harm to horses.

“In the UK, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate [VMD] does a good job of protecting the availability of medicines for all animals.

“We are conscious that this sort of illegal importation puts at risk our whole system of medicines control and has potentially damaging knock-on effects regarding the availability of licensed medicines for sport horses and pleasure horses,” he added.

Earlier this year, the Godolphin doping scandal threw light on the use of unlicensed performance-boosting drugs in the racing industry.

In April, it emerged that the disgraced former trainer, Mahmood al Zarooni, had brought synthetic anabolic steroids, including stanozolol — which are banned in this country — into the UK in his suitcase when returning from Dubai.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (5 September, 2013)