Illinois drug-testing lab earns RMTC interim accreditation

Posted: Feb. 9, 2017

The University of Illinois at Chicago Analytical Forensic Laboratory, which tests samples taken from racehorses in the state, was granted interim accreditation by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium during its Feb. 6 meeting in Florida.

The lab is poised to become the ninth in the United States to receive full RMTC accreditation—one of four major components of the National Uniform Medication Program—since 2013.

Labs that are RMTC-accredited or soon to be accredited tests samples for 30 of the 34 pari-mutuel racing jurisdictions in the U.S.: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. Of those states only Maine doesn’t offer Thoroughbred racing.

The University of Illinois lab tests samples taken from horses at Arlington Park and Hawthorne, where owners and trainers are represented by the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

“We are pleased to see another laboratory in our sport working to meet the RMTC laboratory accreditation standards for testing expertise and proficiency,” said RMTC Chairman Alex Waldrop, president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. “We hope to see additional laboratories join the University of Illinois-Chicago within the year. RMTC accreditation ensures that laboratories can consistently and reliably detect a wide variety of substances at low concentrations, which is a key to providing a racing product in the U.S. that is safe and fair.”

The board of the RMTC, a group of 23 industry stakeholders, also discussed recommendations from a task force it formed to study glaucine, a cough suppressant that has been identified in a number of post-race samples. Glaucine can have hallucinogenic effects at very high doses, and no products that contain glaucine are approved by the Federal Drug Administration.

The RMTC said the task force reported that glaucine is not only present in some bulk shavings but is also available online in injectable forms. In shavings, it is a result of the presence of the tulip poplar tree, which contains a number of plant alkaloids including asimilobine and liriodenine. One or both of the alkaloids have been identified in all samples of shavings tested that are positive for glaucine.

Due to glaucine’s presence in bedding, a horse could ingest shavings prior to a race that could potentially result in a laboratory finding. The potential for inadvertent exposure, as well as intentional exposure, indicates that the simple use of a screening limit alone would likely not be sufficient in controlling the substance, the RMTC said.

In light of the information, the RMTC recommends a 500 picograms/milliliter screening limit and said horsemen should consider removing horses from bulk shavings at least 24 hours pre-race to avoid a positive. As for penalties, a finding above 500 picograms/milliliter and below one nanogram/milliliter would produce a warning; a reading above one nanogram/milliliter would be considered a Class B penalty, the second-most serious on the Association of Racing Commissioners International drug classification scale.

The RMTC Scientific Advisory Committee during the Florida meeting reported on an American Association of Equine Practitioners-funded study on DMSO, a topical pain reliever. A study of 30 horses tested by practicing veterinarians in Kentucky, Florida and California led to the following guidance:

  •  At 24 hours post-administration, 30 of 30 horses exceeded the 10 micrograms/milliliter threshold;
  • At 48 hours post-administration, 30 of 30 horses were below the 10 micrograms/milliliter threshold;
  • The highest concentration observed at 48 hours was 1.02 micrograms/milliliter;
  • Other medications administered during the sampling time were banamine, phenylbutazone, furosemide, methocarbamol, dexamethasone, procaine penicillin, ponazuril, carbocaine and gentamicin.

The RMTC Scientific Advisory Committee also issued an advisory on Levamisole, a dewormer that metabolizes to the stimulant aminorex and is often used as an immune-modulator in the treatment of equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, commonly called EPM. The RMTC recommended that horses treated with Levamisole be tested prior to entry to verify that the drug and its metabolites have cleared its system.