Rash of Positives for Human Drug Clonidine Reported in Nebraska

A human drug used to treat high blood pressure, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and addictive behavior has been detected in at least 10 post-race samples of horses racing in Nebraska recently, and sources say the number of positive tests could double in the coming weeks. Seven trainers have been notified by the Nebraska Racing Commission that their horses tested positive for Clonidine, which drug testing experts say can have both a calming and analgesic (pain killing) effect on horses and is closely related to Romifidine and Guanabenz, two drugs suspected by racing officials as being used illegally on horses.

Clonidine is a Class 3 drug under the guidelines set by the Association of Racing Commissioners International. The guidelines recommend loss of purse for any horse testing positive for the drug, and trainers can be suspended from 60 days to six months, with fines of up to $1,500. Industrial Laboratories of Denver, Colo., detected the drug using immunoassay tests developed by Testing Components Corp. (TCC)., which, along with Neogen, is the market leader in the sale of test kits to drug-testing laboratories. According to Petra Hartmann of Industrial Laboratories, the specific test was designed for Romifidine, a Class 2 drug, but because the two drugs are from the same family, Clonidine was detected in the samples.

"There's more positives coming, and not just in Nebraska," said a member of the drug-testing community who asked to remain anonymous.

Bob Lee, president of the Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said on Tuesday that none of the seven trainers notified has yet asked the HBPA to assist in having a split of the sample tested by an independent lab. Industrial is the official lab for Nebraska and seven other states: Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. Lee said trainers have up to 48 hours to request a split sample, but said he intends to ask the HBPA board to extend the deadline. "There's a lot of these positives at one time and it kind of dumbfounds me," Lee said. "There hasn't been anything like this before. I don't know where it's coming from, or how. But the HBPA is determined to let each trainer have due process."

Clonidine is most commonly used as an anti-hypertensive agent among humans. It also is prescribed to treat withdrawal from opiates, alcohol, or tobacco. Some doctors prescribe Clonidine for hyperactive children as a substitute for Ritalin.