In a Staff Report dated Aug. 28, the Indiana Horse Racing Commission made its case for considering emergency rules next Thursday (Sept. 4) to regulate cobalt. Cobalt is considered to be a potentially dangerous substance to horses that many believe mimics blood-doping agents like erythropoietin (EPO). The Indiana Horse Racing Commission had cobalt levels measured in samples taken for testing from both Standardbred and Thoroughbred races and found high levels.
If the commission approves the recommendations made by Indiana Horse Racing Commission executive director Joe Gorajec, Indiana will become the first North American racing jurisdiction to regulate cobalt. If approved, new regulations would become effective for post-race testing on Sept. 30, with an out-of-competition program going into effect Jan. 1, 2015.
The Indiana Standardbred Association supports action by the Racing Commission and requested immediate action in a letter from president Jack Kieninger: "We trust the Commission in this matter, and believe that for the primary reason that cobalt is a potentially fatal substance, this is an issue that simply cannot wait for other agencies to act. We feel a strong urge to protect the horses themselves as well as protecting the fairness of the races they participate in. To wait could take months if not years to end this deplorable practice.”
According to the Staff Report, samples tested at the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory found that cobalt abuse is ongoing in all breeds at both of Indiana's pari-mutuel tracks.
The Commission Staff requested analysis of 354 blood samples from 23 days of racing. Twelve days were selected from Hoosier Park (standardbred) and eleven from Indiana Grand (thoroughbred and quarter horses). Results indicate cobalt abuse among all racing breeds. A threshold of 25 ppb (parts per billion), as recommended by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, was utilized in determining excessive levels.
Overall, 21 horses (5.9 percent) tested high for cobalt. While the highest levels were found in Thoroughbreds (1127, 841 and 614), the highest percent of high levels was found in the Standardbred samples--7.8 percent versus 3.1 percent for Thoroughbreds. While 25 ppb was used as a threshold, some Standardbred horses had levels as low as .5 ppb while a Thoroughbred had a level of .3 ppb.
Click here to read the entire Staff Report.