RMTC approves research on blood-doping, nerve-blockers

Posted: Feb. 13, 2019

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium Feb. 11 approved funding for two tactical research projects as part of its continuing focus on detecting and eliminating illicit substances in horse racing.

The projects, which will cost a total of $250,000, involve blood-doping and a nerve-blocking agent.

The RMTC hopes to develop an inexpensive screening method for the detection of potential blood-doping. It said that, if successful, racing laboratories would have a relatively inexpensive method of detecting nefarious administrations of EPO and related blood-doping agents by detecting changes in a horse’s blood.

The goal is to detect many more EPO-like substances at much lower concentrations than previously achieved. The project goes hand-in-hand with another tactical research project, funded by RMTC in 2017, that has already improved detection of many common EPO products exponentially.

Both EPO-related projects are being completed at the University of California-Davis Kenneth L. Maddy Laboratory.

“We are very excited about the potential of these advanced testing techniques to detect EPO administration,” said Dr. Rick Arthur, Equine Medical Director for the California Horse Racing Board. “With the 2017 RMTC grant, the Maddy lab has already greatly improved the industry’s EPO confirmation capabilities. Our expectations are that this second grant will enable the industry to close the circle and allow us to more effectively detect EPO micro-dosing.”

The University of Florida Racing Laboratory will handle the research focused on detection of the nerve-blocking agent known as liposomal bupivacaine. When misused, the drug has the potential to last for several days and evade detection in the laboratory.

The goal of the project will be to determine how long such products last in the horse and to develop methods to detect and identify them in post-race testing.

“The RMTC is excited to be spearheading efforts to fight the abuse of this nerve-blocking agent on the racetrack,” RMTC Chair Alex Waldrop said. “Each of the projects approved by the RMTC board represents significant advances that will benefit horse health as well as the integrity of racing. We anticipate no problem finding racing stakeholders who will help us fund them.”

The RMTC board at the Feb. 11 meeting in Florida also received an update regarding the detection of LGD-4300—one of the substances known as SARMS. LGD-4300 creates anabolic-like effects in the horse.

RMTC Executive Director Dr. Dionne Benson said preliminary results indicate the research could create a broader method to control all anabolic-like substances in the horse.

The RMTC board also created a subcommittee to study and develop potential research projects to address bisphosphonates on young, exercised, racing horses, and plans to make a pamphlet available this spring. The Association of Racing Commissioners International also has expressed concern over the use of bisphosphonates.

A bulletin on cannabidiol (available here under Medication Alerts) has been released, and the RMTC plans to soon produce educational materials on the risks associated with compounded medication and neutraceuticals.