08/04/2014 4:02PM

RCI tables cobalt threshold level recommendation


A national racing regulatory group will wait for the results of more scientific studies before issuing a recommendation for a prohibited level of the naturally occurring mineral cobalt, the group said in a statement on Monday.

The Association of Racing Commissioners International, an umbrella group for U.S. racing commissions, made the decision during a meeting last week to table the recommendation until a second study of the mineral is completed. One study conducted by Kentucky and California researchers has already been completed, but a second study is underway by New York and New Jersey scientists. The second study is “near completion,” the RCI said.

Regulatory groups have been considering implementing a threshold level for cobalt for much of the past year, in the wake of rumors worldwide that trainers in both Thoroughbred racing and harness racing may be administering high doses of the substance under the belief that such administrations would have blood-doping effects by inducing red-blood cell production. No scientific evidence exists as to whether large doses of the drug would have such an effect or impact a horse’s performance, though large doses of cobalt are known to be toxic.

Last month, officials of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said that the threshold level for cobalt will likely be set at nearly 100 times the average natural concentration to ensure that charges will hold up in court if the positive is appealed. Cobalt, which can appear in common foodstuffs, is also a component of vitamin B12, which is frequently administered to horses.

In January, the Meadowlands, a harness track in New Jersey, banned two trainers after their horses tested positive for “astronomical levels” of cobalt, according to officials, who would not name the two trainers. The track subsequently put in place its own threshold level for cobalt under a house rule.