Chemists: Drug Super Tests Could Create Nightmare

In a letter to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, a group of chemists and veterinarians who form the Testing Integrity Program has warned that "super testing," as it is called, could create a public relations nightmare for the racing industry should the betting public believe use of illegal medications is rampant.

In the letter, titled "Super testing: To the rescue or to our detriment," the nine chemists and veterinarians said the impact of any "super testing" results should be assessed before any report is compiled and released. The letter says the initiative being carried out by the NTRA's task force on integrity and drug testing is really supplemental testing, because racing jurisdictions already conduct tests on urine and blood samples.

Jim Gallagher, the task force's executive director, is scheduled to give a presentation Thursday at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing. Gallagher has used blind samples so as not to reveal the identities of horses being tested. The object is to identify drugs that may be used, and to streamline the testing process.

TIP said it commends the NTRA for its project, but it says, among other things,that varying withdrawal times for drugs in jurisdictions could skew the results. It warns that the final "super testing" report could "exaggerate the situation as it really exists in terms of the presence and use of drugs in racing," and perhaps "present a false picture of the capabilities of other racing laboratories to conduct testing." The NTRA has employed labs at Cornell University and the University of California-Davis to assist in its project.

TIP suggests an independent audit of "super testing" results, a system for scientific review of the data, and delay of the release of any results until those systems have been established. The letter was signed by, among others, TIP chairman Dr. Allen Ray of the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, Dr. Rick Sams of Ohio State University, and Dr. Thomas Tobin of the University of Kentucky.

When the NTRA task force was formed in 1999, Kentucky horsemen said they
would not support any attempt to tinker with medication rules, which the
NTRA said are not on the table. The industry as a whole has supported
Gallagher's "super testing" program.