“With very few exceptions, almost all race horses tested for drugs are found to be clean, a fact that undermines the credibility of those who peddle the perception that racing has an out of control drug problem,” RCI president Ed Martin said Sept. 8 in releasing an RCI report entitled “Drugs in Racing 2010—The Facts.”
According to the report, in 2010 U.S. racing regulators sent 324,215 biological samples to a network of professional testing labs that utilized standards more stringent than those used for the Olympics. More than 99.5% of those samples were found to be clean.
“Despite the fact that racing regulators test for more substances with greater sensitivity than any other sport, less than one-half of one percent of all tests detected a substance not allowed to be in the horse on race day,” Martin said.
The RCI report also shows that instances of “horse doping” are rare, representing 0.015% of all samples tested. The 10-year trend for findings that might be characterized as doping has remained flat, while there has been a decline during the past decade in the number of therapeutic overages that have resulted in regulatory action. Total medication actions in 2010 were 20% less than 2001, although RCI noted it was not prepared to describe it as a trend.
“Racing, like other sports, has a drug challenge,” Martin said. “We cannot lessen our efforts because there are a relative few who will attempt to circumvent the rules for their own purposes. Our commissions, labs, and research centers need adequate resources if we are to remain current and prepared as new substances emerge and find their way to the backstretch.”
Martin contends that the reality of the drug testing program is often misunderstood and mischaracterized.
The RCI report notes that equine care has evolved to be more medication-reliant in the same way human care has. Racing commission data shows that in those rare instances when a violation of a medication rule does occur, most were associated with a legal substance administered in the normal course of equine care by a licensed veterinarian and cannot be characterized as “horse doping” or as indicative of a “drugging”.