ARCI: Drug-testing results show ‘substantial compliance’

Posted: April 30, 2019

The Association of Racing Commissioners International has released a summary of 2018 equine drug-testing results that showed 99.4% of all tests found “continued substantial compliance” with medication and anti-doping regulations in the United States.

Of the 258,920 tests conducted on 43,574 Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse races and 52,044 Standardbred races, 1,561 were found in violation of regulations, ARCI said. In addition, violations for Class 1 and Class 2 substances—categorized as “doping”—accounted for 107 of the positives (6.8%), down from 167 (11%) in 2017.

The 107 findings out of 258,920 samples tested for substances deemed to have the greatest effect on performance accounted for 0.04% of all samples tested. In 2017 the figure was 0.06%.

In 2018, the number of races tested was 95,618, down from 98,883 the previous year. On average 3.2 horses were tested in each Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse race and an average of 2.26 horses in each Standardbred race.

ARCI said the statistics “do not support claims that a substantial number of horses are racing under the influence of pain-masking medications as all testing labs routinely screen for the presence of such drugs. Such instances do occasionally occur and are reflected in the violations that are found and prosecuted.”

A further breakdown shows Class 3 substances made up 26.2% of total adverse findings, while Class 4 and Class 5 substances—therapeutic and deemed least likely to affect performance—accounted for 66.9% of adverse findings.

The 99.4% “clear rate” for 2018 is the average of 99.13% for Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse races and 99.71% for Standardbred races.

ARCI President Ed Martin has often compared equine drug testing—far more samples are tested each year—with testing in human sports. The 2017 United States Anti-Doping Agency annual report shows a clear rate of 99.12%, while a similar report for the World Anti-Doping Agency indicates a 98.57% clear rate on tests.

“Horse racing and human sport share the same challenges in combatting those who cheat,” Martin said. “While the overall clear rate is comparable, I do not believe anyone is under the illusion in either human sport or horse racing that we are catching everyone who will attempt to cheat. Industry investments in anti-doping research and a greater emphasis on expanded investigatory staff at the regulatory agencies and racetracks is essential if we are to effectively combat this threat.”

(Photo of Kenneth L. Maddy Equine Analytical Testing Laboratory in California courtesy of ARCI)