Consortium launches racehorse drug-testing initiative

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Nov 01, 2008

Lexington, Ky. — Another key organization within the horse-racing industry is joining a growing movement toward reform.

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 model, and set a timeline to have the initiative approved before the end of the year.

All the recommendations follow those proposed by the Jockey Club's Thoroughbred Safety Committee at the Jockey Club Round Table in August.

The RMTC's five action points are:
  • Development of laboratory standards and accreditation criteria to meet ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standards
  • Expansion of current quality-assurance and lab-proficiency standards
  • Development of a business plan for drug-testing infrastructure, including industry-sponsored research and reference equine drug-testing labs
  • Establishment of a post-doctoral and grad-student recruitment program for drug-testing research and laboratory staff development
  • Review of current sample-collection strategies, including long-term storage of frozen samples.

"This is an opportunity to move equine drug testing in this country to a new level," says Rick Arthur, DVM, equine medical director of the California Horse Racing Board.

Meanwhile, a model rule that bans anabolic steroids in racing and training has been adopted in several states that have pari-mutuel racing, with more in the adoption process, according to Scot Waterman, DVM, the RMTC's executive director. "The states now on board with this represent more than 90 percent of the pari-mutuel handle, and we are optimistic that the industry is on its way to banning steroids from virtually all horce racing competition in 2009," Waterman says.

Major organizations within the racing industry, including the Jockey Club and National Thoroughbred Racing Association, have been acting swiftly on these and other reforms since the death of the filly Eight Belles during this year's Kentucky Derby, and a Congressional hearing on racing reforms in June, in which four veterinarians, horse owners and organization officials testified. The hearing focused on whether the industry could or should impose its own set of reforms, or whether the federal government should create a regulatory agency.