Number of out-of-competition tests increases in Pennsylvania

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Dec. 19, 2019

The number of out-of-competition drug tests performed in Pennsylvania continued to rise year over year in 2019 based on statistics released Dec. 17 by the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission.

PHRC Thoroughbred Bureau Director Tom Chuckas said there were 512 tests in 2019, up from 418 in 2018 and 374 in 2017. The testing program was approved by the racing commission in February 2017 and launched the following month.

The stats reflect the number of individual horses—Thoroughbred and Standardbred combined—tested through the program. Chuckas said the laboratory tested for multiple in each blood sample selected on a random basis.

Out-of-competition testing allows for the collection of biological samples from horses in training for gene and blood-doping agents and other substances that compromise the integrity of racing and the welfare of the horse. All of Pennsylvania’s out-of-competition testing samples are analyzed by the Pennsylvania Equine Toxicology Research Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Mary Robinson.

PETRL is accredited by the Racing Medication Testing Consortium and the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation.

In other business the Dec. 17 meeting, Chuckas said the industry’s Equine Racing Group, which is made up of three PHRC members and various stakeholders, has had four meetings since its formation earlier in 2019. At its most recent meeting the group discussed action items such as workouts, medication rules, veterinary care and horse identification, with recommendations expected for the January meeting of the racing commission.

Chuckas also said the positions of Equine Medical Director and Safety Compliance Officer—both are recommended in the Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities—will be addressed at the PHRC meetings in either January or February.