A plan to beef up drug testing of racehorses in the United States has been announced, with industry continuing to make steady progress towards having anabolic steroids banned from all horse racing in 2009.
The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) announced a five-part drug-testing initiative aimed at developing laboratory and drug-testing standards comparable to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) model.
The RMTC, consisting of 25 racing industry stakeholders and organisations that represent thoroughbred, standardbred, American quarter horse and arabian racing, met in Lexington, Kentucky, on September 24.
It said the recommendations are the result of The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Safety Committee-sponsored drug-testing meeting in Chicago on September 22-23 and are a direct response to Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association President Alan Foreman's call for a major reorganisation of drug testing in US racing.
The RMTC's drug-testing initiative will include the following action points:
- Development of laboratory standards and accreditation criteria to ISO standards.
- Expansion of current quality assurance and laboratory proficiency programmes.
- Development of a business plan for the US drug-testing infrastructure including industry-sponsored research and reference equine drug-testing laboratories.
- Establishment of a post-doctoral and graduate student recruitment programme for drug-testing research and laboratory staff development.
- Review of current sample collection strategies, including long-term storage of frozen samples.
Dr Rick Sams, RMTC chemist advisor, gave an update on anabolic steroid research being conducted at the University of Florida.
From this research, the RMTC expects to recommend plasma threshold levels and withdrawal times for stanozolol, testosterone, boldenone and nandrolone.
Executive Director Dr Scot Waterman provided the RMTC board with an update on the racing industry's push to eliminate anabolic steroids, highlighting that 16 racing states had now adopted the RMTC-recommended model rule on anabolic steroids, with 16 more states in the adoption process.
"RMTC officers have been encouraged by the recent adoptions of the model rule by Maryland, Louisiana and Ohio," said Waterman. "The states now on board with this rule represent more than 90% of the pari-mutuel handle, and we are optimistic that the industry is on its way to banning steroids from virtually all horse racing competition in 2009."
RMTC Research Consultant Dr. Bill Muir presented information on the anti-inflammatory effects of glucocorticosteroids. The RMTC board subsequently committed more than $300,000 to support comprehensive research over the next two years, which will allow the development of model rules, best practices and proper procedures related to the administration of these medications, which are used in the treatment of inflammation and are different from anabolic steroids.
The RMTC board also voted to endorse the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's safety and integrity initiatives to move Thoroughbred racing forward on welfare issues, including RMTC recommendations on drug-testing, the regulation of therapeutic medication and stricter enforcement of uniform penalties for prohibited practices and drug rule violations.