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Cetirizine violations

In the latest USEF magazine, there are 6 violations for horses testing positive for cetirizine.

They all say “The facts and mitigating factors support the folowing penalty even though it is below the suggested range …” In each case the reduced penalty is $1500.
2 at a (H/J) Horse Show
2 at a Dressage Show
2 at a Horse Trial

I know that cetirizine is an antihistamine and is used for respiratory and skin problems.

But I have a couple of questions
Why is cetirizine illegal?
Why are people giving it to horses they are showing?

It’s a restricted substance for USEF. It is on the list for permitted with a medical form.
2022-equine-drugs-medications (usef.org)

Antihistamines usually have a side-effect of drowsiness, so sometimes people have been known to use them to “dope” horses to make them more chill at shows. That’s why it’s restricted to requiring a medical form.


This is one of the medication rules that makes me a little bonkers. I share one of your questions: why is it illegal?

Cetirizine is inexpensive and generally well-tolerated, and it generally doesn’t have challenging side effects. Specifically in this context, it’s less likely to cause drowsiness, blurry vision, and temperature sensitivities, unlike drugs like Benadryl. So if you have a horse who has seasonal allergies who gets sneezy or weepy-eyed in the summer, it’s my first defense.

It’s permissible with a medication report form, so it seems like in this case the issue is that the owners didn’t file one. I just wish we could give horses therapeutic medicine without a whole rigamarole.


Well, if peple didn’t abuse drugs for an unfair advantage, it might be easier, but there are some that definitely alter performance, whether given legitimately or not.


Sigh. I know. People suck.


I think the issue there is two-fold. The main one is probably that people don’t know the form exists or that they can file it for things like this.

And two, the form requires vet info and a diagnosis. At least the way most folks I know (myself included) use Zyrtec is that you notice the horse is getting hivey or whatever and give a couple days of it and if that doesn’t clear up the issues, then you call the vet out for something different, because as you say, it’s generally well tolerated, cheap, and OTC.

How sensitive is USEF’s drug testing? I know in racing, human contamination is becoming a “problem.” How big of a problem is debatable, as anyone who gets caught cries human contamination. But in theory, the testing is sensitive enough in racing for human contamination to be plausible in certain circumstances. And some people live on Zyrtec.

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I think point two is a good one- you’re right, a lot of us just reach for it by default because we do perceive it as a pretty innocuous and effective first line of defense and probably don’t think about it. Especially if rated showing is an occasional part of your life instead of your primary competitive outlet, so the D&M controls aren’t as much on your mind and you aren’t trained by experience to think “will this test?”

As regards the form… yeah, I know a pony who lives on Zyrtec for summer allergies but withdraws from it before every rated show. I did mention that it’s allowed with a medication form, in case that was something the owners did not know, but I think they still do it. (Why? No idea, not my pony.)