08/25/2017 12:45PM

Racing Medication and Testing Consortium to fund two drug-testing projects

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The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium has approved funding for two projects designed to improve the detection of banned blood-doping drugs such as erythropoietin and a class of drugs that mimic anabolic steroids, according to the organization.

The projects, which were approved at an RMTC board meeting on Monday, are focusing on drugs that have persistently cropped up in conversations related to illegal doping in horse racing over the past decade. Erythropoietin, or EPO, has been widely abused in other sports and has turned up in several horse-racing cases, while the steroid mimics, which are called selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs), are relatively new compounds that have been detected recently in human athletics.

The project related to EPO will focus on improving the screening sensitivity for the drug and other “EPO-stimulating agents administered in very small amounts,” a reference to a practice called “micro-dosing.” The practice of micro-dosing has been discussed among drug-testing regulators in nearly all sports, and it involves the regular injection of small amounts of a drug to obtain a blood-doping effect. Blood-doping drugs are illegal in racing, and positive tests can lead to a 10-year ban for a trainer.

The project related to SARMs will attempt to identify a test that would detect the presence of the drugs, which increase muscle mass. SARMs first came on to the market in the last five years, and the drugs have been included in supplements produced by online suppliers.

The RMTC also said that it heard plans during the meeting to create a four-year grant program “to encourage tactical research into the detection and identification of illicit substances.” The RMTC said the program will seek matching donations from industry groups and other individuals for the fund.

“We want this program to provide researchers a consistent funding source for these types of tactical research projects,” said Dr. Dionne Benson, the RMTC’s executive director, in a statement.

The RMTC is an industry-funded group that directs research and develops model rules for medication use and drug testing. Its board is comprised of a wide cross-section of racing-industry constituencies.