Contamination Blamed for UK, Irish Morphine Positives

The regulatory bodies for racing in England and Ireland said in a joint statement they are "gravely concerned" over 20 test samples that screened positive for morphine taken from horses racing in those two countries in recent days.

The statement from the Jockey Club of England and the Irish Turf Club, issued last Friday, said eight of the samples have since been confirmed as positive for morphine. Names of horses and their trainers have not been released.

The joint statement referred to the rash of positive tests as a "contamination" that "appears to have arisen from feed." Testing by the two organizations has begun in an attempt to identify the specific cause of the morphine positives, but as of Monday the ingredient has not been found.

While morphine can occur naturally in certain food products, England and Ireland have "zero tolerance" rules concerning positives for prohibited medications. As a result, the positive findings -- despite the regulatory bodies' conclusion they were caused by feed contamination -- almost surely will result in the disqualification of horses and may lead to sanctions against their trainers.

Similar rules in the U.S. have led to fines and/or suspensions of trainers and loss of purse money to owners whose horses have tested positive for trace amounts of morphine.