The New York Racing Association announced plans July 14 to expand and enhance its in-house drug testing program in order to detect illegal performance-enhancing substances in Thoroughbred race horses utilizing state-of-the-art science, technology, and procedural processes.

As a result, NYRA’s backstretch security barn, initiated in May 2005, will become obsolete and will cease operations as of opening day at Saratoga Race Course, July 23.

According to a release, the expanded program includes random out-of-competition testing designed to effectively deter the use of blood doping agents such as Erythropoietin (EPO), bronchial dilators, and other emerging threats.  Out-of-competition testing will focus primarily on claimed horses, horses shipping in and out of NYRA tracks, horses running in stakes races, and other random occurrences.

NYRA will also initiate an “in-today” process which will identify all horses, in their stalls, running in a NYRA race within 24 hours. This will afford NYRA the ability to monitor horses the day prior to and in the hours leading up to a race through the deployment of an even stronger backstretch presence of NYRA veterinarians and security officers.  NYRA will continue testing for illegal levels of total carbon dioxide (known as “milkshaking”) through an “assembly barn” where all horses entering a race will be required to report just prior to moving to the paddock for saddling.

The testing operation will be administered and supervised by Dr. George Maylin, director of the New York State Racing & Wagering Board’s drug testing and research program at Morrisville State College in upstate Madison County, N.Y.  The program of Thoroughbred and Standardbred drug testing in New York currently overseen by Maylin is already the most advanced and comprehensive of any jurisdiction in the United States, according to NYRA.

NYRA’s new robust testing regimen will be accompanied by equally robust mandatory penalties for trainers of horses testing positive for illegal drugs. Consistent with the uniform regulations promulgated by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, trainers of horses testing positive for Class A drug violations will face a minimum mandatory one-year disbarment from entering horses or being allocated stalls at NYRA racetracks as a first offense; a minimum mandatory disbarment of two years for a second violation; and a permanent disbarment for a third violation. 

Moreover, trainers serving disbarments will not be permitted to transfer their training responsibilities to family members or current employees.

In an ongoing effort to further enhance the new policies and procedures, over the next 12 months NYRA management will closely monitor the re-instituted procedure of private veterinarians administering Lasix to horses on their race day, and re-examine TCO2 testing, historical TCO2 levels, and appropriate penalties for violations, and report on the results and impact of the elimination of the security barn to the Special Oversight Committee of the NYRA board of directors on a regular basis.

“The out-of-competition drug testing program combined with the new assembly barn and ‘in-today’ procedures will provide NYRA with potent tools to confront today’s challenges of detecting performance-enhancing substances and allow us to stay one step ahead of potential abusers,” said NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward, in a release. “The science empowering cheaters has changed since 2005 and these new procedures will ensure that NYRA’s countermeasures keep pace in order to preserve the integrity of the sport.”

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