08/29/2014 12:44PM

Lab behind on drug tests for three states

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – A backlog of incomplete post-race drug tests at a widely respected laboratory in Lexington has sent regulators scrambling to get the work done while underlining the growing pains associated with the industry’s move to adopt stricter rules on therapeutic medications.

The laboratory, LGC Science, conducts post-race drug tests for Kentucky, Delaware, and Indiana and is headed by Dr. Rick Sams, considered one of the foremost authorities on equine drug testing. According to officials, the backlog is centered on confirmation tests for samples that have come up positive for one or more of the 26 therapeutic medications that are newly regulated under the stricter rules adopted in all three states.

The backlog has already led Indiana to reach a short-term contract with a second drug-testing facility, Industrial Labs in Colorado, to conduct its post-race drug tests for five weeks, giving LGC time to catch up. In Delaware, regulators voted in August to cancel the state racing commission’s contract with LGC at the end of the year, although the regulators said they welcomed LGC to bid on the contract for next year and beyond.

“I think [LGC is] being very thorough,” said John Wayne, the executive director of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission. “You can’t fault them on that. But we’ve been really frustrated, to be honest. We want some assurances, and we want to see some penalties involved, some sanctions in there if they’re not fulfilling their responsibilities.”

Sams did not return phone calls this week.

Joe Gorajec, the executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, said the backlog for tests from Indiana racehorses, both Standardbred and Thoroughbred, involves a spate of positives that need to be confirmed. Gorajec would not say whether the positives were for therapeutic medications or for performance-enhancing medications but said, “There will be a large number of positives called at the end of our season” in late fall. The positives are from both Standardbred and Thoroughbred horses, Gorajec said.

The positives in Indiana are also not related to cobalt administrations, which will be the subject of a meeting of the Indiana commission Thursday. The commission recently ordered tests on 354 post-race samples from Standardbreds, Thoroughbreds, and Quarter Horses to test for cobalt concentrations – which turned up 21 results in excess of a proposed threshold level for the mineral – but those tests were done by a different laboratory.

Dr. Mary Scollay, the equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said at a recent meeting of the commission’s rules committee that LGC officials have assured the commission that the backlog will be taken care of by the end of September. The Kentucky commission was the first to contract with LGC in 2011, shortly after the state-of-the-art lab was opened under the name HFL Sport Science.

According to officials, the backlog is in part related to the new medication rules, which require laboratories to determine the concentrations of the therapeutic drugs in any sample that indicates the presence of the drug in initial screenings. Under the new rules, the 26 medications cannot appear above certain concentrations without drawing a penalty, requiring LGC to conduct time-consuming confirmation tests.

Apart from concerns about the possible abuse of performance-enhancing medications, the backlog indicates that veterinarians and trainers are having difficulty adjusting to the new medication rules, either because of unfamiliarity regarding the proper dosage and withdrawal times for the medications or a refusal to break with treatment regimens that led to the new rules in the first place, according to officials.

At the same time, the officials said that LGC was not prepared for the amount of work that would be required to conduct the confirmation tests on establishing the concentrations of therapeutic medications, but that the lab is likely to catch up as its staff adjusts to the workload.

Ron Solberg More than 1 year ago
being behind causes a big slowdown on cash flow.
Clara Fenger More than 1 year ago
Matt: the regulators were simply not honest about their withdrawal guidelines. Modern equine sports medicine is in the best interest of the athletes, owners and betting public. We have tried to adhere to the published guidelines and still take the best possible care of the horses, but the RMTC was dishonest about the accuracy of their withdrawal guidelines. This is the basis of the problem. Modern sports medicine has never fixed a race.
Jack H More than 1 year ago
Clara if your even for a second believe "Modern sports medicine has never fixed a race." the aliens from Roswell NM will be on your doorstep anytime. And my evidence? Here you go...... Dumbo Troopers Trot-Out Horseracing Arrests West Trenton, NJ - "With these arrests, the New Jersey State Police has dealt a crushing blow to illegal activity in the sport of harness racing," said Colonel Rick Fuentes. Troopers in the Horse Race Unit arrested four people after an investigation into illegal performance enhancement of racehorses. Eric S. Ledford, 35, Monroe Twp., Middlesex County, of Seldon Ledford Stables was arrested at the driver's locker room at the Meadowlands Racetrack and charged with conspiracy to rig a publicly exhibited contest (race-fixing). Two Ledford employees were also arrested, along with the veterinarian who supplied drugs to the operation. Twelve search warrants were executed Friday in Freehold, East Windsor and Englishtown after the investigation, dubbed "Operation Horsepower," revealed evidence of injecting horses with prescription drugs prior to races. "By taking down one of the top finishers in the sport, Operation Horsepower will create a ripple effect that will be felt throughout the entire horse racing industry," said Major Jim Fallon, commanding officer of the Special Investigation Section. "Based on the attention these arrests have created, everyone who lost a race to a Ledford horse may now be asking some serious questions," he added. Eric Ledford is a leading driver at the Meadowlands Racetrack, which is the most popular venue in the country for harness racing. He works for his father, Seldon Ledford, a nationally- ranked trainer of harness racing horses with winnings in excess of $3 million in the 2005 season. Statistics supplied by the United States Trotting Association reveal that average yearly winnings for the stable were approximately $186,000 between 1991 and 2004. Ledford's stable won more than one-half million dollars in purses during the first two months of 2006. Ryan Dailey and his wife, Ardena J. Daily, both 31, of East Windsor were arrested on Friday morning at their home. The Daileys are both employed by Seldon Ledford Stables. Ryan is an assistant trainer and Ardena is stable employee. Both were charged with race rigging and possession of drugs. Quantities of drugs, including EPO, were taken during the search of the Dailey home. Aranesp, a potent, long-lasting form of Erythropoietin (EPO) along with other schedule II and III narcotics, were seized during the execution of other search warrants. EPO acts as a blood enhancer that stimulates the red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the muscles. Aranesp rarely produces antibodies in the horse's bloodstream, and is therefore undetectable with current post-race antibody tests. All forms of EPO are currently banned in the horseracing industry. Veterinarian John R. Witmer, 68, of Freehold was also arrested Friday and charged with conspiracy to rig a publicly exhibited contest. Witmer's bank accounts and assets, valued at approximately $1,000,000, were frozen after his arrest. The value of seized pharmaceutical items is estimated in excess of $150,000. Deputy Attorney General Christine D'Elia has been working with the State Police Horse Racing Unit on this 18-month-long investigation and provided legal guidance and oversight of the search warrant applications. Chris McErlean, Vice President of Racing Operations at the Meadowlands, offered the State Police detectives full cooperation in the investigation. "The Meadowlands is extremely concerned with the integrity of our races and the entire horse racing industry. The expectation of fairness in our racing and its results is our lifeblood," said McErlean. "The New Jersey racetracks and horsemen pay over $2.7 million per year to the New Jersey Racing Commission to conduct drug testing; the Meadowlands is the largest contributor to a private investigative arm that works in the standardbred industry and we have been a leading proponent of detention barns - requiring horses to be in a secured barn area, supervised by the Meadowlands, 24 hours prior to a race. We will continue to do as much as is legally within our means to address the security and integrity matters related to our racing product. We would hope that all other tracks, and horsemen, would do the same." Statistics uncovered in the investigation show that horses entering the Ledford stables-even those with well-established records-often posted dramatically improved race times within a few days of changing stables. Horses under Ledford usually improved by one to two seconds, which translates to five to ten lengths of a horse for each race.
Walter More than 1 year ago
Clara, you really believe that modern sports medicine is never involved in race fixing? Then why are trainers using it? Why are there so many chemists combining all these elicit drugs and administering them to horses? Please do say for therapeutic reasons. Most of the all time greats never got anything more than hay, oats & water. Just ask trainers like Ron McAnally and Jack Van Berg.