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At its February 11 meeting at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) board approved the funding of two tactical research projects with a combined price tag in excess of $250,000, as a continuation of its ongoing focus on detecting and eliminating illicit substances in racing.
First, the RMTC is seeking to develop an inexpensive screening method for the detection of potential blood doping. The proposed project, if successful, will provide racing laboratories with a relatively inexpensive method of detecting nefarious administrations of EPO and related blood doping agents by detecting changes in the horse's blood. The goal is to detect many more EPO 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 second tactical research project will be completed at the University of Florida Racing Laboratory and will be focused on the detection of the nerve-blocking agent known as liposomal bupivacaine. When misused, this 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 these 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,” said RMTC Chair Alex Waldrop. “Each of the projects approved by the RMTC board this week 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.”
Additionally, the RMTC board heard an update regarding the detection of LGD-4300 – one of the substances known as SARMS. LGD-4300 creates anabolic-like effects in the horse.
“Preliminary results indicate that this research, funded by the RMTC as part of last year's tactical research efforts, could lead to a broader method to control all anabolic-like substances in the horse,” said Dr. Dionne Benson, executive director of the RMTC. “The RMTC's support of this and so many other tactical research projects is exciting, because each of them is crucial to the long-term health and vitality of horse racing.
The RMTC board also created a subcommittee to study and develop potential research projects to address bisphosphonates, as very little is known about the effects of these drugs on young, exercised, racing horses. Among the first items to come from this committee will be an educational pamphlet available in the next few months.
RMTC board members also approved educational materials on the risks of compounded medication, nutraceuticals and cannabidiol (CBD). A bulletin on CBD is available on the Tactical Research page of the RMTC website, where the other pamphlets will be posted soon.
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