Nobody in racing (except in certain parts of the United States perhaps) condones a community where drugs are used to enhance a horse's natural talents. A management which finds and punishes positives is usually to be applauded, but you have to wonder whether the recent situation in Macau is doing the name of the place more harm than good. After a string of steroid positives late last season, the Macau Jockey Club (MJC) handed a memo down from committee level that all positives, for anything at all, would be met with a disqualification. Surely the policy is screaming out for a rethink. That directive tied the hands of the stewards, whose only discretion on a penalty is how long, not whether something is a fine-only offence. In January, a winner from the yard of last season's leading trainer, Barry Baldwin, returned a go-slow after being fancied and well-backed as favourite. Baldwin would have known the horse would be swabbed as favourite and was keen for it to win anyway, so there is no reason to think he would have given the horse a tranquiliser. Now Baldwin, this season's runaway championship leader Alan Tam Man-chau and another top-five trainer, Stephen Chow, have all received disqualifications for positives to a different, minor drug dispensed by, and with the advice of, the MJC vets. Ambroxol is the metabolite of sulphur trimidene, a mucolytic, that is used to decrease mucous in horses which are recovering from a cold or similar ailment. The effect on a horse's race performance, as either a go-fast or go-slow, is recognised as being zero. So much so that authorities in Australia, where drug-free racing is the commitment, don't bother testing for the presence of it. It could be used on raceday without stirring any interest. The problem for Baldwin, Tam and Chow is that the drug penalties in Macau have come under this blanket disqualification. All have appeals pending. Over the tranquiliser, Baldwin appealed against his original four-month disqualification. The appeal found the charge had not been proved, it was thrown out, he was recharged under another rule dealing with his responsibility for matters in the stable and received a two-month disqualification and a $200,000 fine. Any trainer will tell you that a fine is preferable to the hassle of losing all the horses due to a disqualification, however brief, and it must be remembered that any penalty should also be a statement on how seriously regarded is the drug itself and the apparent intent behind its presence. Thus any disqualification carries a scar on the record and the stewards' discretion should be whether to apply it or not - not just how long it should be. It seems patently ridiculous that any jurisdiction should impose a ban of this standard without due consideration of the circumstances of each case, including the substance involved. Unfortunately, as often happens in race clubs, the professionals - the stewards - have been handed an impossible situation by the amateurs at the top who direct policy. There may be voices in Hong Kong which make a habit of being anti-Macau racing, but this column can hardly be considered one of them. Yet, it has to be said, in what is otherwise an emerging racing jurisdiction, to play with people's livelihoods in such a cavalier, black-or-white mentality makes one wonder just how far Macau really has come.