The Calgary Stampede has disqualified the winning animal in its steer competition after it tested positive for the painkiller Banamine.
Testing positive for drugs is in “contravention of the competition’s rules,” said a Calgary Stampede news release.
“We are committed to animal care and welfare and we will continue to enhance rules, regulations and policies related to animal health and safety,” said Max Fritz, director of agriculture with the Stampede.
Royden Anderson, co-owner of the Maine Anjou cross, admits the steer was given the painkiller Banamine before the show, but only after it was approved by a veterinarian at the Calgary Stampede.
“They all heard the vet say it was good and now the Stampede is saying it’s all hearsay and there was nothing in writing,” said Anderson of Didsbury, Alta.
“It’s a kid’s show. If they’re going to ask a vet if they can use a drug, no kid is going to get it in writing.”
Tim Chalack, father of the steer’s co-owner, Riley, said he is frustrated that the Calgary Stampede veterinarian approved the drug and they are now being disqualified for its use.
“The vets said it’s OK to use Ban-amine, and now they’re reneging on that,” said Chalack of Carstairs, Alta. “We didn’t do anything the vets didn’t tell us to do.”
Banamine, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory from Merck, is a common painkiller. It is registered for use in cattle but has a six-day withdrawal period before slaughter.
The animal has not been slaughtered and is at a veterinary clinic at Balzac, Alta.
Blood tests were taken on the winning steer and the reserve champion owned by Nicona Brost, Fairland Cattle Co., Logan Chalack, Flewelling Cattle Co. and Deerview Meats.
The Hereford steer that won reserve will now be named grand champion and awarded the $10,000 prize. No third place winner was chosen in the ring and therefore no reserve champion will be named.
In an email response, Calgary Stampede communications adviser Bonni Clark said the Stampede is “not in a position to publicly disclose details surrounding someone else’s animal, and will not respond to speculation regarding the type of substance in question. The Stampede based our decision to disqualify this steer upon factual information and we stand by our decision.”
According to the Stampede list of exhibitor rules: “Any products/solutions/liquids administered internally to alter the conformation or weight of the animal is prohibited.”
Anderson said he believes they are being used as scapegoats in the steer competition and believes a disgruntled competitor insisted a blood sample be taken.
“I know there are other people who have done worse stuff than we did and they’re not making examples of them.”
The Stampede does not routinely take drug samples of the winning animals, but reserves the right to do so.
“I do know this is the first year they blood tested and I do know why, too. I know this is a vendetta thing. Somebody lost and is a poor loser,” he said.
“It’s a competitive sport. People do things. I have been in the steer business for a while. People do give them things. They get old after awhile and get limping and stuff like that, but everything is given in accordance with the rules and regulations of medicine and slaughter.”
Rick Jackson of Kansas City, Kansas, who sold the calf to Anderson, said the calf, bought for his son, Ryan, has had a rough life.
At its first show in Ohio, the calf stepped on a show fluffing comb and seven teeth broke off in its foot. After removing the teeth, Ryan spent months icing the foot and caring for the animal between cattle shows.
With only a water hose, a fan, a three-sided shed and a “great big heart,” Ryan nursed the animal back to health, said Jackson.
The family’s move from Vermont to Kansas meant the calf was no longer eligible for steer shows in either area and it was sent to Trausch Farms in Iowa for resale. It’s there Anderson bought the steer for Riley Chalack, with himself as co-owner.
Jackson said his son’s log book estimated the steer travelled 11,000 kilometres to shows, including its trip to Calgary.
The steer became lame at the Stampede, the same foot with the original injuries.
Anderson and Chalack can appeal the Stampede’s decision.
Clark also said the Stampede will be reviewing the entire situation.
“The Stampede will continue to evaluate and will subsequently communicate any further actions associated with this situation. At this time we are not in a position to speculate on what may or may not come from the review,” she wrote.
Calls to Dr. Don Miller, chair of the Calgary Stampede steer committee and a competitor in the class, were not returned. After the show, the steer was sent to Miller’s farm for two weeks before being moved to Balzac.
Anderson said the animal should not have been sent to a competitor’s farm after the show.
“No way it should have gone to Miller when he was competing against the steer,” said Anderson.
Rob Lundego, vice-chair of the steer committee, said he has no opinion or comment on the test. As a steer committee member, he said he has no say on what happens now.
“That would be the Calgary brass that has the power, not us as the committee.”