Environmental contaminants might affect racetrack drug tests

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Jun 27, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Baton Rouge, La. -- Environmental contaminants at racetracks could possibly skew the results of drug tests in racehorses, according to a researcher at Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine.

Because tests that screen equine blood and urine samples are sensitive enough to pick up sub-nanogram amounts of drugs, it's possible that some drugs detected could come from the tracks' environment, says Steven A. Barker, BS, MS, PhD, Everett D. Besch Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Medicine.

Researchers collected samples at four Louisiana tracks from soil in barn stalls, other stall surfaces, barn dust and lagoon waters along the track and performed standard drug testing procedures. The tests picked up non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, including phenylbutazone, flunixin and naproxen, most of it from stall floors, along with high concentrations of caffeine, Barker says.

The fact that it's unlikely caffeine is being directly administered to horses shows that drugs and other contaminants likely are entering horses' environment inadvertently.

Especially under today's stricter new guidelines in the racing industry, regulatory officials, including veterinarians, along with trainers and owners, should be aware of all potential sources of contamination when drug tests are performed, Barker says. The Louisiana researchers' study originally was published in the October 2008 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.