By: Frank Angst

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will likely run double-blind quality assurance testing on its lab after the state’s Equine Drug Research Council approved plans Oct. 28 to carry out such tests.

The EDRC approved up to $16,000 from its Rapid Response fund to work with three lab horses at Kentucky Equine Research to provide samples that will be sent to the state’s testing lab, LGC Science in Lexington, as well as the University of California-Davis lab.

KHRC equine medical director Mary Scollay noted that while the industry’s Racing Medication and Testing Consortium-accredited labs are subject to quality assurance tests, those tests currently are not double-blind in nature. Both labs in the Kentucky study are accredited by the RMTC.

RMTC external quality assurance testing currently is a single-masked program, in which labs receive samples that they know are part of the quality assurance testing. Scollay said this type of testing allows labs to put extra effort into how they screen the provided samples for levels of permitted medications, prohibited substances, and metabolites of prohibited substances, as opposed to such samples receiving the same level of attention as any other submitted sample.

The program approved by the EDRC at its Oct. 28 meeting in Lexington will see up to 20 collected samples submitted to labs. The samples will not be identified as test samples, but rather will come in the same containers as used at the tracks with no special identification. Beyond that, Scollay noted that the horses used in the study will receive a variety of permitted race medications to look more closely like the samples received.

Scollay said if a sample came in with a single medication or prohibited substance, it would stand out compared with typical samples.

Should Kentucky determine the study is a success, it could serve as a method for the RMTC to conduct double-blind studies on all its accredited labs. Scollay said the $16,000 cost for up to 20 samples is significantly lower than other double-blind sample programs the RMTC has researched. Current RMTC protocol notes labs will not have to participate in a double-masked program until such a program is established.

In July 2015 the Indiana Horse Racing Commission terminated its contract with Truesdail Laboratories after it said the Tustin, Calif. lab missed seven positives, including a Class I drug, in just 26 days of handling drug tests for the state. The state’s determination followed its own quality assurance program. In this case the IHRC sent actual collected samples to a separate audit laboratory, Industrial Laboratories in Denver, and confirmed disputed findings at a referee lab, LGC Science.

Following the Indiana quality assurance program results, the RMTC conducted its own review of of the Tustin, Calif. lab. Truesdail currently is an RMTC-accredited lab.

In other news out of the Oct. 28 EDRC meeting:

The EDRC voted to recommend the KHRC adopt the updated model rule on methamphetamine positives. The new rule recommends if it can be proven that the form of methamphetamine found is levo-methamphetamine, as opposed to the illicit form of the drug, the second-highest penalty should be given from the Association of Racing Commissioners International’s Uniform Classification Guidelines for Foriegn Substances and Recommended Penalties. If the illicit drug is the cause of the positive test, the highest penalty is still recommended.

The EDRC’s recommended change would bring Kentucky in line to ARCI Model Rules updated this year.

A look at the molecular structure of a positive currently listed as methamphetamine can differentiate between the illicit drug and a drug associated with over-the-counter inhalers used to treat colds and congestion. RMTC executive director Dionne Benson explained earlier this year that when only levo-methamphetamine shows up in a test, it indicates that one of these FDA-approved inhalers has been used. But when dextro-methamphetamine, or a mix of levo- and dextro-methamphetamine shows up in a test, it indicates the illicit drug.

The substance in the over-the-counter inhalers also isn’t approved for racing and will continue to have a Penalty B classification, but regulators thought it important to differentiate the two methamphetamine types when possible. The illicit drug will continue to carry the highest penalty classification.

The lone case to date where only levo-methampheamine was discovered in a positive test occurred in Kentucky, involving trainer Kellyn Gorder. KHRC executive director Marc Guilfoil said that case dating back to November 2014 at Churchill Downs is close to being resolved. Stewards suspended Gorder for one year and fined him $5,000 in the case in which regulatory investigators said they also found injectable medications, syringes, and improperly labeled medication.

Gorder had appealed the penalty, saying the positive was a case of contamination.

Also, the EDRC recommended the KHRC approve adjusted threshold levels and provided withdrawal time guidance for several Class V and one Class IV medication. If carried out, the changes will bring Kentucky into line with updated ARCI model rules on the substances, all on the list of Controlled Therapeutic Substances for use in racing, that were updated earlier this year.