The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Safety Committee said Feb. 11 it will fund a Racing Medication and Testing Consortium frozen-sample and retrospective testing program that will begin in April.
The program is part of the drug-testing initiative that evolved from a safety committee recommendation announced at The Jockey Club Round Table Conference in August 2008.
The safety committee’s recommendation included the maintenance of a facility to store frozen samples for future analysis. The Jockey Club board of stewards has approved $150,000 in funding to the RMTC for the facility and other drug-testing initiatives in 2009.
“We have devoted significant resources, financial and otherwise, to medication issues through the years and we will continue to do so,” Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps said in a statement. “There is nothing more important or more critical for this entire industry, and a frozen-sample retrospective testing program is a key component of any drug-testing initiative.”
The RMTC will coordinate the frozen storage of plasma and urine post-race, pre-race, and out-of-competition samples. In addition, funding will be provided for the retrospective super testing of plasma and urine samples.
“The purpose of this program is to act as a deterrent to the use of illegal drugs or prohibited medications in racehorses competing in the United States,” Thoroughbred Safety Committee chairman Stuart Janney III said. “The testing of these samples may result in positive test results, which can then be used as probable cause for the future collection of test samples from racehorses with the same owner, trainer, or attending veterinarian.”
Janney also said an accumulation of positive test results by the same owner, trainer, or attending veterinarian could be considered “aggravating circumstances” in the determinations of fines and suspensions in accordance with existing RMTC penalty recommendations, which were adopted as Association of Racing Commissioners International model rules in 2006.
Dr. Rick Arthur, a member of the RMTC executive committee, said the RMTC Scientific Advisory Committee, in cooperation with state racing commissions, will select up to five participating laboratories for the frozen-sample program, including Dr. Don Catlin’s Anti-Doping Research Laboratory in Los Angeles.
Catlin founded the first anti-doping lab in the United States, the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory, and served as its director for 25 years. He has overseen drug testing at every level of sport, including Olympic, professional, and collegiate. Catlin has been involved with Thoroughbred racing since the formation of the Equine Drug Research Institute in 2005.
The safety committee was formed in May 2008 to review every facet of equine health, including breeding practices, medication, the rules of racing, and track surfaces, and to recommend actions to be taken by the industry to improve the health and safety of Thoroughbreds.