When the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s Anti-Doping and Medication Control program goes into effect as anticipated on March 27, testing will be conducted at one of six laboratories that are currently accredited by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, HISA chief executive officer Lisa Lazarus said on Thursday.
Speaking during a media conference call, Lazarus said the six labs selected by HISA and the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit – the agency established to administer the rules and enforcement for HiSA – are the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Analytical Toxicology Laboratory; the Animal Forensic Toxicology Laboratory at the University of Illinois-Chicago; Industrial Laboratories in Denver, Colo.; Kenneth L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory at the University of California-Davis; Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Pennsylvania Equine Toxicology and Research Laboratory; and University of Kentucky Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory.
Three remaining RMTC-accredited labs not selected are the New York Equine Drug Testing and Research Program in Ithaca, N.Y.; Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory; and the University of Florida Racing Laboratory.
“We really think it’s a momentous occasion and an important day,” Lazarus said in reference to the launch of HISA’s Anti-Doping and Medication Control program. “It will be the first time ever that horse racing has a national, uniform, robust program.”
The uniformity extends to the laboratories selected to conduct testing, Lazarus said, indicating that the six labs will be testing for the same drugs and using the same levels at which to call positives.
The collection and chain of custody of samples will also be uniform – and paperless – Lazarus said. Collection kits and shipping procedures are standardized, she added, with samples sent to labs no later than the day after collection.
“When we did our audits of state racing commissions, they were all over the map with how they collected samples,” Lazarus said.
Racing states whose labs have contracted with HISA and HIWU will continue to have their samples tested in-state. For states like New York and Florida, whose labs have not been selected by HISA and HIWU, testing will be handled by out-of-state labs that Lazarus said “make the most economic sense from an efficiency standpoint.”
Dr. George Maylin, director for the New York lab, has been in charge of testing Thoroughbred and Standardbred races in the state since the early 1970s, first at Cornell University and then at Morrisville State College. The HISA/HIWU agreement will not affect Standardbred testing in New York or any other state. At this stage, neither Standardbred nor Quarter Horse racing is covered under HISA.
Something that will not be harmonized or uniform when HISA launches its medication program are various interest groups that either support or oppose it. Strident opposition to HISA was expressed by several individuals at the recent convention of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
“When I ask a lot of these folks, ‘What would you want out of an anti-doping program?’ what they say is, ‘We want to catch the cheaters. We want you to be realistic and measured about medications, and we want you to understand that sometimes there are contaminants in the environment that we can’t control,’” said Lazarus. “And that’s exactly what our program does.”
As an example, Lazarus outlined the first-of-its-kind Atypical Findings Policy that recognizes 27 substances that are the likeliest to cause positive tests through contamination. The test results are analyzed internally, she said, discussions with the responsible parties are held, and if “there’s a compelling case and it’s much more likely than not that it was contamination, it would be like the case never happened.”
One of the challenges cited by Lazarus is the spread of misinformation about HISA and the fact that many who are spreading it haven’t taken the time to actually read the regulations.
“There’s never been a national regulator,” said Lazarus. “There’s a fear of the unknown. … There’s a lot of distrust in our industry.”
Lazarus said she is focused on two things as HISA moves into its new phase.
“I want to make sure the program runs as smoothly and as well and as efficiently and as ethically as it possibly can, and build trust. If I can get those two things to happen as a team, I think we’ll be successful. But change is always hard, and this is seismic change.”
The March 27 launch is contingent on anticipated approval of ADMC regulations on that date by the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees HISA. Because of a court order on pending litigation, HISA regulations on both its racetrack safety and ADMC programs are not being enforced in Louisiana or West Virginia. That litigation is ongoing, with two separate Courts of Appeals rendering different opinions on the law’s constitutionality.
Last November, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act was unconstitutional because it did not provide enough authority to the FTC for its oversight role of HISA. The case was sent back to a federal district court in Texas. The law was amended in December, strengthening the FTC’s role, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently ruled it constitutional. The issue may end up in the Supreme Court.