04/15/2015 10:39AM

RMTC recommends threshold level for GABA amino acid


The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium has approved a recommended threshold level for a naturally occurring amino acid that has been found in a supplement believed to be in use illegally on race day, according to the organization.

The amino acid, the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), is produced naturally by horses and all other mammals. It is an ingredient in a performance-horse supplement called Carolina Gold, which caught the attention of regulators in equine sports several years ago when horses performing in U.S. Equine Federation events were found to have been administered the supplement, purportedly for its calming effect.

Last year, officials with the RMTC found vials of the supplement on several vet trucks in New Mexico during unannounced searches. It is believed that veterinarians were administering the supplement within four hours of a race, according to officials.

The RMTC set the threshold at 110 parts per billion in blood, a level that could not be reached without artificially administering the amino acid. High doses of GABA are thought to have adverse effects on horses, according to the RMTC and USEF, which banned the substance in 2012.

The recommended threshold has been sent to the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, which meets next week to consider new medication rules. The RCI is also set to consider an RMTC-endorsed two-tier threshold for the naturally occurring mineral cobalt, which was believed to have been in use at racetracks as a cheap blood-doping agent.

If the RCI approves the new thresholds, they will be sent to the organization’s member jurisdictions with a recommendation for immediate adoption.