10/28/2014 11:05AM

Drug-testing lab pledges to catch up on backlog of work

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LGC Sciences, the Lexington, Ky., drug-testing laboratory that has been a source of frustration for three major racing jurisdictions this year, is confident it can address a backlog of incomplete tests by the end of 2014 and restore its reputation, the managing director of the lab’s parent company said Tuesday.

David Griffiths, who is based in Britain but flew to Lexington last week to meet with officials from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said the lab is hiring more technicians and analyzing its operations in order to address the backlog, which has delayed some post-race drug tests for several months. The backlog has frustrated the racing commissions in Kentucky, Indiana, and Delaware, leading the commissions to consider severing their relationship with the lab.

“We are determined to get through these difficulties and continue serving our customers,” Griffiths said in a phone interview from his office in Middlesex, England. “This is something we’re taking very seriously.”

Last week, the top officials of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission called a meeting with LGC’s top managers to discuss the delays. John Ward, the executive director of the KHRC, said after the meeting that the commission intends to stick with the lab as it attempts to iron out the delays. The KHRC’s contract with LGC expires Jan. 31.

Griffiths said the backlog was in part due to a significant spike in samples from all three states that required confirmatory testing after initial screenings came up suspicious or positive for therapeutic medications. Many of the medications are the subject of new regulations in all three states that require the determination of the exact concentrations of the drugs in post-race samples.

Griffiths said that at one point this summer, as many as 10 percent of all the samples sent to the lab had been flagged for confirmatory testing. He said the spike at one point was “100-fold” the percentage of samples that needed confirmatory testing in previous years.

“We were used to managing peaks of activity in the past, but we reached a peak of 10 percent of all samples that had to be taken to the confirmatory process, and ... that process is far more time-consuming than the initial screens,” Griffiths said.

The lab also has tested about 20 percent more samples this year than in all of 2013, Griffiths said.

LGC’s success in addressing the backlog likely will determine whether its principal clients stick with the lab, which has been open since 2011. The Delaware Racing Commission has already decided to issue another request for proposals for the state’s drug-testing work in 2015, and the Kentucky commission is considering opening up the bidding for next year’s work. Officials for both commissions have said, however, that they would invite LGC to bid on the contract again.