Beginning a process that will result in the most significant changes to drug testing in the United States in more than three decades, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) board of directors has approved new national laboratory standards for testing, the implementation of a laboratory accreditation program and a new independent Equine Quality Assurance Program. In addition, the board approved the three-year funding of a graduate/post-doctoral research fellowship and a frozen sample and retrospective testing program.
These unprecedented initiatives were approved at the RMTC\'s board meeting in Baltimore on June 18, 2009.
The new drug testing initiatives, part of sweeping reforms in US racing\'s drug testing recommended by Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association CEO and RMTC Vice Chairman Alan M. Foreman at The Jockey Club\'s 2008 Round Table Conference, are the result of unprecedented collaboration during the past 10 months.
The Drug Testing Initiative (DTI) Task Force, which includes prominent industry scientists, veterinarians and industry leaders, has provided and continues to provide support and advice to the RMTC on drug testing issues. DTI Task Force members are Drs. Richard Sams, Scott Stanley, George Maylin, Don Catlin, Rick Arthur, Larry Soma and Walter Hyde. The other members include Duncan Patterson from the Association of Racing Commissioners International, Rogers Beasley from Keeneland, Alan Marzelli from The Jockey Club and Foreman.
\"The RMTC has adopted standards that all testing laboratories will have to meet to gain accreditation and we have begun the actual accreditation process,” said Foreman. “The new Equine Quality Assurance Program will provide an independent, third-party examination of equine drug testing laboratories, which is a totally new concept for the horse racing industry. This work is unprecedented and ultimately will change the face of drug testing in this country.”
DTI Task Force members will be finalizing a budget and implementation strategy for the drug testing initiative in the weeks ahead.
As was announced in February, The Jockey Club is funding the frozen sample and retrospective testing program and it is contributing $150,000 in funding to the RMTC for this and other drug testing purposes in 2009.
Realizing one of the main goals when the DTI Task Force was established last year, RMTC board members committed $75,000 per year for three years for a matching grant graduate/post-doctoral research fellowship program. This commitment by the RMTC recognizes the need to develop the next generation of laboratory directors and researchers for the racing industry.
The board also asked the RMTC Scientific Advisory Committee to finalize recommendations for the RCI Model Rules Committee on plasma thresholds and the corresponding withdrawal times for anabolic steroids. In addition, an explanation for how withdrawal times for permitted therapeutic medications are calculated will be made available in the withdrawal times database on rmtcnet.com.
The Scientific Advisory Committee will also review existing research on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and policies in place for those therapeutic medications. Currently, the use of the NSAID drugs phenylbutazone, flunixin and ketoprofen are allowed at 24 hours prior to racing. Regulatory veterinarians have expressed concern to the RMTC that current policies may compromise pre-race examinations.
RMTC Executive Director Dr. Scot Waterman also provided board members with an update on the status of administration studies funded by the RMTC on a number of essential non-raceday therapeutic medications. The RMTC Scientific Advisory Committee will continue to review available data from these studies for withdrawal time recommendations.
“We are very close to completing the first phase of our withdrawal times recommendations, which we believe will reduce the number of violations for therapeutic medications across the country once adopted,” said Dr. Waterman. “This will benefit the entire industry.” (RMTC)