Brussels: Nothing is sacred it appears in the high-flying world of pigeon racing in Belgium, where six birds were found to have been doped with drugs such as cocaine and painkillers, Belgian media reported Thursday.
Cycling-mad Belgium is used to hearing of sports stars pumped up on performance-enhancing drugs, but officials are now homing-in on the birds used in a sport which rakes in millions in breeding and prize monies.
The Belgian pigeon-racing federation sent samples from 20 birds to the National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa after a recent exchange visit, two Flemish dailies reported.
“Cocaine in one, painkillers and anti-fever drugs for another,” the newspapers reported.
Belgian pigeon racing has acquired new-found fame recently with the 310,000 euros ($430,000) sale to a Chinese gambler of the country’s top-performing bird “Bolt,” named after six-time Olympic sprint champion, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.
Over the summer the star pigeon Bolt and hundreds of other Belgian racing pigeons were held up by Chinese customs in a row over their declared value which triggered a multi-million euro entry wrangle.
The sport sees specially bred and trained pigeons released from a specific location and race back to their home loft.