09/25/2008 11:00PM

Consortium to monitor testing labs


The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium intends to develop a program to monitor the quality of U.S. drug-testing laboratories and participate in the development of a business plan for improving the country's drug-testing infrastructure, the consortium said Friday.

The organization, which is funded by a variety of racing organizations, adopted a five-point "action plan" at a meeting Thursday that included the initiatives regarding laboratory standards and the business plan, the consortium said. The action plan also includes a pledge to develop accreditation criteria for U.S. labs; establish recruiting methods to attract students to drug-testing programs and research; and a review of the industry's current sampling procedures that will include criteria for the storage of frozen samples.

Elements of the action plan were major topics at this year's Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing, an annual event sponsored by the Jockey Club. At the round table, Jockey Club officials and other racing representatives called for the development of a business plan addressing the ideal structure for drug-testing in the United States as one of their major recommendations.

The action plan indicates that the consortium will play a major role in the formulation of the policies that were recommended at the round table, although the Jockey Club's own Thoroughbred Safety Committee - which was formed earlier this year after the public outcry surrounding the death of the filly Eight Belles shortly after she finished second in the Kentucky Derby - will also remain actively involved.

Dan Fick, a member of the consortium and executive director of the Jockey Club, said that the safety committee and a Racing Medication and Testing Consortium subcommittee will "work in tandem."

The safety committee is next expected to meet Oct. 13, according to Bob Curran, a spokesman for the Jockey Club. The business plan is on that meeting's agenda.

Fick said that the consortium's plan to develop accreditation standards and a quality-assurance program would build on two existing laboratory-run programs that have suffered from cuts in funding recently. The intent will be to have the consortium program eventually replace the two existing programs, Fick said.