Anne M. Eberhardt

Racing Regulators Examine Cobalt Studies

Concerns center on cobalt being used as a performance-enhancing substance.

Before making a formal recommendation of a regulatory testing limit, North American racing regulators have decided to consider the results of two scientific research studies that have been commissioned to help detect the deliberate administration of cobalt in racehorses.

The Association of Racing Commissioners International at its model rules committee meeting the week of July 27 discussed a proposed threshold level that was later withdrawn by representatives of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium pending further discussion by the RMTC board of directors. 

The threshold, which is based on an analysis of a RMTC-coordinated project that is funded by the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council and conducted by Dr. Heather Knych, an assistant professor at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, was advanced with the support of eight of the 14 members of the RMTC Scientific Advisory Committee.

A second research project, funded by the United States Trotting Association, is near completion, according to remarks made at the meeting by Ivan Axelrod, chairman of the USTA. That project is being conducted by Dr. George Maylin at the New York Drug Testing and Research Program at Morrisville State College in New York in conjunction with Drs.Karyn Malinowski and Kenneth McKeever, the director and associate director, respectively, of the Equine Science Center at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Racing regulators are concerned that cobalt treatments may be given to racehorses with an intent to affect performance by inducing red blood cell production similar to the prohibited use of erythropoietin. All horses have some degree of cobalt in their system as a result of diet and environmental factors, but excessive amounts may indicate a deliberate administration, officials said.