08/13/2013 3:38PM

Saratoga conference: Out-of-competition drug testing stressed

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – New classes of performance-enhancing drugs will likely be administered well before a race occurs and be difficult to detect in postrace tests, underlining the importance of out-of-competition testing of horses in the near future, according to racing regulators and chemists.

The chemists and regulators, speaking at the Saratoga Institute on Racing and Gaming Law conference on Tuesday at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga, said the new classes of drugs, which include synthetic blood- and gene-doping agents and growth hormones, are becoming increasingly prevalent among human athletes, drug marketers, and veterinarians. The drugs will likely be far more powerful and more difficult to detect in the coming years as chemists tweak the formulas to improve performance and evade detection.

The evolution of the drugs will almost certainly require racing commissions to direct more of their resources to testing horses well before a horse is entered to race, the officials said. Currently, the overwhelming majority of drug tests in racing are performed on postrace blood and urine samples, with an emphasis on finding substances that could have affected the performance of the horse in the race.

“It’s very likely you are going to see a lot more out-of-competition testing going on in our businesses,” said Peter Sacopulos, an attorney who is also the owner of Green Gables Stud, a Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse breeding operation in Indiana. Sacopulos added that the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which conducts drug tests on U.S. Olympic athletes, conducts 70 percent of all its tests in out-of-competition settings.

Several racing entities conduct or administer out-of-competition testing, including Breeders’ Cup, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, and the New York State Gaming Commission, usually in concert with high-profile races such as the Kentucky Derby or Belmont Stakes. Seven states have rules on the books allowing for out-of-competition testing, including Kentucky, New York, California, and New Jersey, and regulators are pushing for adoption of the model rule on the practice in other major racing states.

Although it is unclear how often states collect out-of-competition samples – the results are not typically publicized unless there is a positive – some sampling is known to have yielded results. In 2012, for example, Indiana, which boasts that it conducts more out-of-competition tests than all of its neighboring states combined, issued lengthy suspensions to two Quarter Horse trainers whose horses tested positive for zilpaterol, a drug developed within the past five years to add mass to cattle.

In the most high-profile horse racing case in the past year, Mahmood Al Zarooni, a trainer for Godolphin Stables based at Newmarket, England, was suspended for eight years after out-of-competition testing revealed the presence of anabolic steroids in 11 racehorses, including several who were expected to race in the next several weeks. The positives created a scandal in Great Britain.

On Sunday, the Jockey Club reserved a portion of its annual Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing to discuss the possibility of expanding out-of-competition testing in Thoroughbred racing. Stuart Janney III, the vice chairman of the Jockey Club, called out-of-competition testing “the perfect bookend” to postrace testing in the sport, and detailed a pledge by the Jockey Club to contribute $500,000 over the next two years to the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium to conduct out-of-competition tests targeting horses pointing to graded stakes. The medication consortium is expected to consider approval of the program at a September board meeting.

With most out-of-competition programs in their infancy, attorneys question whether the rules governing the practice adequately protect licensees’ due-process rights and whether they are consistent with rules governing the administration of therapeutic medications in horses who have samples taken in the more traditional postrace setting.

Andrew Turro, a New York attorney who has represented harness trainers for drug positives, said at the Saratoga conference that rules in New York treat therapeutic drugs found in out-of-competition tests more harshly than drugs found in postrace tests. Turro also said that he questioned the jurisdiction of the racing commission to collect the samples at private training centers or farms, where even non-licensees can be held responsible for substances in a horse’s test.

“Everyone is for a level playing field, everyone is for the control of drugs,” Turro said. “But it has to be done in a reasonable way. It can’t be done in a myopic way without looking at the endgame and without considering what are the legal powers, what are the rights of the people you are prosecuting?”

Dr. Dionne Benson, the executive director of the medication consortium, said on Monday that under rules in place in most jurisdictions, racing commissions would be able to issue penalties for a limited number of drugs found in horses who had been sampled in out-of-competition testing. The drugs include those that are considered “prohibited practices,” such as venoms and blood-doping drugs.

“For almost all of those drugs that are covered under the racing rule, the states would need to make rule changes” to issue penalties for out-of-competition positives, Benson said.

Ben van den Brink More than 1 year ago
Quite easy to solve, if you like to be in an race, you,re ( trainer and owner) sign an document, with all relevants. If you,re not signed or act fraudelous you,re out. But the races needs to be written as inventationals.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
If they overlook the 'training centers' where they are bulking up babies, then they need not bother with testing at all. The first timers of some barns look like body builders.
Chuck Seeger More than 1 year ago
So Stuart Janney wants to perform out of competition testing for horses pointed to graded stakes. What's that represent, maybe 1% of the horse population? People don't set back and wait for graded races to wager on. Look at the handle on the garbage cards currently being offered at Saratoga. How is any testing program going to weed out tainted animals competing in these and 99% of the daily races across the country? Not going to happen, but the Jockey Club could care less. They have never shown any respect for the betting public. The only way to possibly clean up this environment of high level performance manipulation is the impose lifetime bans on any trainer and owner who happens to get caught. But that will never happen. What will happen is the sport will completely fade away.
Gunner More than 1 year ago
All: Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Second Witch: Fillet of a fenny snake, In the cauldron boil and bake; Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. It's Shakespeare, and beats cobra venom every time.
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
If they ever got it right how the winning percentages of certain trainers/stables would change. How many millions have already been stolen or cheated to obtain ? Maybe it would bring back horsemanship like the good old days. Most importantly it would make things more competitive and FAIR. I GUESS
Jay Stone More than 1 year ago
Out of competition testing will be helpful to the sport once it is regulated properly. The problem lies in the important question of when does therapeutic medication cross the line and become a ped? This system will have to be efficiently regulated to work for all sides. What if you test a horse that came in from a farm and it shows drugs in his system? Who would be responsible? There are horses coming off layoffs that might be months away from racing. They may need to be given some medication to get them over a minor problem. Do you treat them the same as a horse 30 days away from a race? This testing system when put in place in a wide scale arena will need many safeguards. In theory it sounds great but in reality it will not be so easy. The ammount of positives will be shockingly small but the good thing will be the perception the public sees.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
I think you may have strayed from what is actually intended here. Therapeutic meds are allowed, and there is no need to test for them out of competition, and will stay the same and only crosses the line for post race testing to no trace or within threshold. They are finally looking for the performance enhancers that leave no trace post race.
Mark Deckert More than 1 year ago
Well stated horse cents, there is a distinct difference. EPO, is almost impossible to detect post race.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
EPO has been a huge problem for fifteen years and no one has bothered to care about it. How do you think they get a speed bred horse, trained for speed, runs from the front and carries that speed 1 1/4 miles. When they get serious about it, and start stringent testing for it, you'll see a very famous trainer fall off the charts.
Sal Carcia More than 1 year ago
Zarooni claimed at first he was not aware that training horses in the UK on steroids was illegal. He did train that way in Dubai where it is legal. It is also legal to train horses on steroids in the U.S. I am surprised he didn't claim that the steroids were administered in Dubai (if the horses were ever in Dubai).
Ryan Cale More than 1 year ago
It would have been hard for him to claim that since he was caught giving 5 syringes full of steroids to a vet's assistant at his Newmarket stables with a list of the names of the horses to be injected. No vet was around and no mention of the steroid shots in the horses' medication registers.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
For the record, Sal. Sheik Mo criminalized the use of steroids in UAE soon after Zarooni was busted.
Sal Carcia More than 1 year ago
This is a good thing. But, Sheik Mo's horses also had positives for steroids in the long distance game. And I have often wondered how he was not able to determine that many of the horses in the Moulton Paddocks yard were on steroids. As a railbird, the general health of horses from race to race was often discernable. I hope the U.S. official follow suit and bars steroids for out-of-competition training.
Dee R. Eff More than 1 year ago
Seriously overlooked for many many years is blood doping. Growth hormone not far behind and gene manipulators on the horizen. It's about time. Way behind the eight ball. Get after it and stay after it