In the second round of "super tests" performed under the guidance of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Racing Integrity and Drug Testing Task Force, there were no new positives for Class 1, 2, and 3 medications, according to a final report recently released.
Results of the first round of tests on 1,272 blind samples were released last summer. They showed that 98.3% of samples were clean. The 324 additional tests found no Class 1, 2, or 3 drugs, which pushed that percentage to 98.7% for all 1,596 tests.
There were, however, 454 positives for Class 4 therapeutic medications in the 1,596 tested samples. Prednisone and prednisolone, which fall in the corticosteroid category, accounted for 424 of the confirmations.
The other cortiscosteroids found in samples were betamethasone (two positives) and dexamethasone (21 positives). Under the category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, there were seven confirmations for ketoprofen.
The Class 4 medications are commonly used in racehorses. Dr. Scot Waterman, executive director of the NTRA task force, said the test results for corticosteroids in particular are "tough to interpret."
"They're useful therapeutics used fairly ubiquitously for a number of purposes," Waterman said. "It's not surprising they are being used. They are actually legal on race day in several jurisdictions."
For cost reasons, the levels of therapeutic drugs in samples weren't quantified, so very small amounts may have been detected under the sensitive super-test standards. Waterman said it's possible 75% of the confirmations for therapeutics could have come from jurisdictions in which their race-day use is legal.
"We're simply reporting whether it is there or not," Waterman said. "That's a can of worms."
Prednisone, a widely used medication, is used to treat airway inflammation, allergic reactions, and joint inflammation. "We're not surprised we would find that kind of number" of confirmations, Waterman said.
In regard to NSAIDs, Waterman said it appears the industry is happy with medications allowed under current regulations. He said the tests didn't reveal any "non-esoteric" NSAIDs.
The next priority for the task force is formation of a national organization to coordinate drug testing and a movement toward uniform policy. The new Racing Medication and Testing Consortium met July 16 and continues to sort through reports from various task forces.