RMTC Has Plan for Drug-Testing Standards

The horseracing industry plans to improve equine drug-testing standards.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium is developing a five-prong plan to implement equine drug-testing standards similar to those used by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The action, announced Sept. 24 after board meeting of the RMTC, follows recommendations made at The Jockey Club Round Table in August. During that conference, Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association executive director Alan Foreman identified problem areas in drug testing and how they could be corrected.

The RMTC said it will develop laboratory standards and accreditation criteria to ISO standards; expand quality assurance and laboratory proficiency programs ;develop a business plan for the drug-testing infrastructure in the United States, including industry-sponsored  research and reference equine drug-testing laboratories; establish a post doctoral and graduate student recruitment program for drug-testing research and laboratory staff development; and review sample-collection strategies, including long-term storage of frozen blood and urine samples.

RMTC officials, in a release, said the recommendations follow those made by The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Safety Committee at the Round Table. The Thoroughbred Safety Committee met Sept. 22-23 to follow up on the Round Table presentations.
Specific tasks with definitive timelines and responsible subcommittees were reviewed and authorized by the RMTC board with preliminary work beginning immediately. All of the recommendations closely follow the Thoroughbred Safety Committee’s recommendations on drug testing released at The Jockey Club Round Table.

“This is an opportunity to move equine drug testing in this country to a new level,” said Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board. “Dr. Don Catlin, founder and former director of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory, recommended the WADA model for equine drug testing at the Grayson-Jockey Club Welfare and Safety Summit this spring, and he was absolutely correct. We shouldn’t settle for less.”

One recommendation made by Foreman was consolidation of laboratories that perform equine drug-tests. Several in the U.S. are private, but most are tied to universities that rely on state funding.

The RMTC also indicated research to develop threshold levels for four anabolic steroids is taking longer than expected, so recommendations for a model rule won’t be available until early December. The racing industry still hopes to have a “ban” on steroids in place in all jurisdictions by Jan. 1, 2009.

RMTC chemist adviser Dr. Rick Sams said the delay was caused when it was found boldenone, one of the banned steroids, was detectible in plasma after a single injection for more than 140 days in some Thoroughbreds being tested in Florida. The general withdrawal time has been said to be 30-45 days.

Thus far, 16 states have adopted the model rule on steroids, and 16 others are in the adoption process, according to RMTC executive director Dr. Scot Waterman.