'Zero Tolerance' Policy Leads to Positive Tests in Indiana

A "zero tolerance" policy in Indiana led to seven horses testing positive for cocaine during the waning weeks of Hoosier Park's recently concluded Thoroughbred meet. According to Indiana Horse Racing Commission executive director Joe Gorajec, the traces in each positive were very low, and would have fallen under the acceptable thresholds of other racing jurisdictions.

"Indiana is a zero tolerance state when it comes to cocaine in a horse's system," Gorajec said. "Should a horse tests positive for cocaine, the purse is forfeited and the trainer is assessed a $500 fine."

In most of the positive tests, the presence of benzoylecgonine, a byproduct of cocaine, measured between five and 25 nanograms per milliliter of blood or urine. Gorajec explained that, unlike Indiana, other states have established thresholds for the amount of benzoylecgonine in a horse's body. He noted that the regulatory agencies in states including Illinois and Louisiana call for limits of anywhere between 100 and 150 nanograms.

"Many states would not even call them a positive," Gorajec said of the recent rash of failed tests. "All of them are low levels."

Because of the low levels of benzoylecgonine present in each test, Gorajec believes cocaine was not administered to the Thoroughbreds, but was more than likely picked up in any number of ways through contact with humans. He noted that while the violations are being called cocaine positives, each infraction has been for the byproduct, meaning the cocaine was metabolized and went through each horse's system, and severely lessens the odds of contaminated samples at the lab or test barn.

Gorajec also said that a Standardbred horse returned a positive test earlier this year. "This is not solely a one-breed issue. We did have a low-level cocaine positive this spring at a Standardbred meet," he said. "It's a multi-breed matter."

Gorajec said he is comfortable with the statute that calls for zero tolerance.

"I think the penalties do reflect the mitigating circumstances of the situation," he stated. "It may not have had a performance-enhancing effect, but it's in the system. It still should be a violation of the rules."

It was also revealed last week that three horses had tested positive for the tranquilizer Dormosedan over the past two years. While the breed of the horses in question was not disclosed, Gorajec said in each instance they were race winners. He also explained that the IHRC has tested for Dormosedan - a Class 3 drug on the RCI (Association of Racing Commissioners International) medication list - for 2 1/2 years, and the positives resulted in fines, suspensions and forfeiture of purse winnings.

"This is a therapeutic medication. It does not belong in a horse on race day," said Gorajec.