By: Natalie Voss

Progress continues on an international accreditation program for laboratories conducting drug testing on Thoroughbred racehorses, according to an update this week. Dr. Yves Bonnaire spoke before the 50th International Conference of Horseracing Authorities with additional details on the program, which was started in 2014 and should launch next year.

The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities started the program because its members recognized wide variance in the abilities of the facilities testing samples around the world. The IFHA certification program requires an application from the requesting lab (including a list of medications the lab detects and previous proficiency testing results) and proof of accreditation from other bodies. After acceptance, labs will have to complete proficiency testing and undergo an audit. Proficiency tests will be repeated every two or three years and audits every four.

Four laboratories are ready for certification under the IFHA program, with assessments being conducted currently.

Dr. Dionne Benson, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, said in the long term, many hope several American labs will seek out the IFHA certification. American labs test 400,000 of the roughly 500,000 samples tested in racing each year.

“We won’t necessarily require our labs to also be IFHA-certified, that would be up to the commissions,” said Benson. “My understanding is there will be some pressure ultimately for the graded races – the Kentucky Derby, the Breeders’ Cup, those kind of races – to be tested in certified labs or they will face the threat of being downgraded.”

Labs currently accredited through RMTC, which launched its program in 2006, will need to apply for IFHA certification separately.

RMTC’s system is based up on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s accreditation system and is more regular in its proficiency testing than the current outline of the IFHA certification. RMTC-accredited labs complete proficiency tests twice per year rather than every few years.

IFHA president Louis Romanet believes that out of 60 laboratories currently conducting testing on racehorses worldwide, ten or fewer could earn accreditation from IFHA as-is.

“There are some very big countries that will have a big investment to make,” said Romanet. “The task force will be there to help them.”

“This program is not only a program to sanction the laboratory but much more to educate them. It is an education program and we are more than happy to help all the labs at the international level,” echoed Bonnaire.