02/11/2009 12:00AM

Sample freezing gets Jockey Club funding


The Jockey Club has agreed to provide $150,000 to the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium for the freezing of blood and urine samples so that the samples can be tested at a later date, the organizations announced on Wednesday.

The contribution will go towards the maintenance of facilities to store the frozen samples and "other drug-testing purposes" in 2009. The medication consortium expects to begin freezing samples in April.

Freezing samples allows regulators to test for drugs that were not detectable at the time the samples were frozen. Supporters of the practice consider it crucial to deterring trainers from experimenting with new performance-enhancing drugs. Most major sports, including the Olympics, freeze samples from athletes.

The funding is being provided by the Jockey Club through its Thoroughbred Safety Committee, which was formed last year one week after the death of Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby. In August, the committee recommended that the industry explore ways to establish a frozen-sample program.

In a release, Dr. Rick Arthur, a member of the medication consortium's executive committee and the equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, said that the consortium will select up to five laboratories as maintenance facilities for the frozen samples. One of those facilities will be located at the Anti-Doping Research Laboratory in Los Angeles, which is run by Dr. Don Catlin. Catlin has been a pioneer in developing tests to catch hard-to-detect drugs in human athletes, and he has been working with racing for several years.

Stuart Janney, the chairman of the safety committee, said the detection of drugs in frozen samples would not lead to penalties against trainers. Janney said, however, that trainers whose frozen samples tested positive could be targeted for stepped-up surveillance. In addition, a positive in a frozen sample could be considered "aggravating circumstances" if regulators detect other illegal substances from the same trainer, Janney said.