Indiana Ousts Widely-Used Drug Testing Lab For ‘Continued Failure To Detect Substances’

by | 05.19.2015 | 12:30pm
Irvine, Calif.-based Truesdail Laboratories plans to appeal Indiana's decision to stop using the lab for equine drug testing
Irvine, Calif.-based Truesdail Laboratories plans to appeal Indiana's decision to stop using the lab for equine drug testing

Officials at Truesdail Laboratories in Irvine, Calif., said they plan to contest a May 12 decision by the Indiana Horse Racing Commission to terminate the company's equine drug testing contract after Truesdail failed to detect high levels of commonly used corticosteroids in three samples taken from harness horses competing at Hoosier Park in late March and early April.

Truesdail conducts drug testing for racing in Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. That includes testing for such prestigious races as last Saturday's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

The firing of Truesdail was a byproduct of a quality assurance program that went into place this year under the leadership of Indiana Horse Racing Commission executive director Joe Gorajec. On randomly selected racing programs, blood samples taken from harness horses at Hoosier Park and Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses at Indiana Grand were sent to three laboratories: Truesdail, the official lab (which also received urine samples) and two audit laboratories –  LGC in Lexington, Ky., and Industrial Laboratories in Wheat Ridge, Colo.

The first problem arose on April 9, when Industrial reported a finding of 597 picograms per milliliter of Isoflupredone, nearly six times higher than the Indiana Horse Racing Commission's threshold of 100 pg/ml. That threshold level is the same as the model rules adopted by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) on the recommendation of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC). LGC also confirmed the sample as positive for Isoflupredone, at a level of 465 pg/ml.

Truesdail reported the sample clear of any drugs above the threshold.


One week later, after another sample was reported clear by Truesdail, Industrial reported a finding of Betamethasone at 22 pg/ml, more than twice the Indiana and RCI threshold level of 10. LGC also found a violation for Betamethasone at 28.6 pg/ml.

On the same date, April 16, Truesdail failed to find Betamethasone in a third sample that Industrial detected at 62 pg/ml and LGC detected at 84.7 pg/ml – the latter more than eight times the permitted level.

As part of Truesdail's contract with Indiana, the laboratory was given an opportunity to re-test the samples for which there were conflicting results.

On April 13, after the discovery of Isoflupretone by Industrial Laboratories in a sample that was cleared by Truesdail, Holly Newell, deputy counsel for the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, wrote to Dr. Norman Hester, Truesdail's chief science officer, in an e-mail obtained by the Paulick Report: “The Indiana Horse Racing Commission is in receipt of Truesdail's April 9, 2015, Drug Tests Report, which cleared samples taken from March 27, 2015, at Hoosier Park. Please be advised that we have a report from our audit laboratory that indicates a finding in Sample Number 123003 from March 27, 2015.

“Please review this sample, and submit an amended finding, if necessary, by 2 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. If your finding remains the same, please confirm that by the same time and date as well.”

On April 14, Hester responded:

“Julie (racing chemist Julie Hagihara)and I and our staff reexamined our screening data for Sample Number 123003 shortly after receiving your e-mail. Our documentation indicated that we had detected flunixin in this sample when we tested it. As we noted in our proposal, when we test the blood samples we run positive control samples along with the track samples that have been spiked with drugs at the threshold levels for that drug. Thus we had data for a sample spiked at 20ng/ml to compare with the data from 123003.  The screening data indicated the peak area for flunixin was about half that of the 20ng/ml spiked sample. Since this is well below threshold we did not send the sample on for further confirmation testing.

“After receiving your e-mail, I asked one of our chemists to run a full confirmation test on the sample with a multipoint calibration, positive and negative controls etc. This quantitative confirmation, ran in duplicate, confirmed the presence of flunixin at values of 11.6ng/ml and 11.7ng/ml. Thus we have three determinations that indicate the flunixin level is sample 123003 is well below threshold and should not be reported in a violation letter.

“If we have a misunderstanding of what you want reported as a finding please clarify.

“Our analysts have reviewed again all screening data of serum by UHPLC/HRMS and all screening data of urine by IA and UHPLC/HRMS and found nothing else to report. If Industrial has found a drug other than flunixin, please identify the drug and we will evaluate our screening protocols to see why it was not detected and take corrective actions.

“At this point, we see no reason to issue any revised reports.”

Newell wrote a similar e-mail to Hester after both Industrial and LGC detected high levels of Betamethasone in the two samples that Truesdail said were clear.

Hester responded: “I had my chemists re look at the two samples and the data indicated both samples to be suspect for the antibiotic sulfamethazine. In the past our clients have not wanted us to report trace levels of sufa druga (sic). We estimate the levels for both samples to be less than 1ng/ml. I guess we need a policy decision on these types of compounds…”

Both Isoflupredone and Betamethasone, Class 4 drugs under RCI model rules, are commonly used as joint injections. They are on the list of 26 controlled therapeutic medications in the RCI's National Uniform Mediation Rules.

drug testing test tubesIn other words, these were commonly used drugs detected at levels as high as eight times Indiana's permitted levels as recommended by the RCI. And even after being given a second chance to detect them, Truesdail failed. None of the cases involved could be prosecuted by Indiana stewards, because the findings of medication violations had to come from the official lab – not a secondary or audit lab.

In her Contract Termination letter to Dr. Anthony Fontana, technical director of Truesdail, Newell wrote that “Truesdail is in breach of the contract. … Truesdail's continued failure to detect substances in post-race samples, even after a review of the specific sample number, has been significantly detrimental to the prosecution of at least three trainers for medication violations. Truesdail has continuously failed to provide services that meet IHRC specifications for equine drug testing.”

Truesdail, when questioned by the Paulick Report about why it was unable to detect the medication violations in the three samples, issued the following statement: “We initiated a root cause investigation and corrective action per ISO 17025 requirements. The process identified the root cause of the issue and it has subsequently been corrected. We are confident in our ability to screen and confirm these drugs at current RMTC threshold levels.”

To prevent further failures, the Truesdail statement added, “We have made adjustments to our sample preparation procedure.”

Truesdail was selected as the official laboratory for Indiana by the state's Department of Administration based on both financial and performance metrics. In 2014, a contract with LGC was terminated by the Indiana Horse Racing Commission because of a backlog that prevented timely reports on post-race samples.

Truesdail has received accreditation from the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, but the organization's executive director, Dr. Dionne Benson, said: “The RMTC Accreditation Code does allow for breach of an agreement with any commission to affect a laboratory's accreditation status.  We are in the process of gathering facts regarding the situation.  Until the Horseracing Testing Laboratory Committee (HTLC) is able to review the facts from both parties involved, we are not in a position to take action on any laboratory's accreditation status.  The RMTC and HTLC take these allegations seriously and intend to review all of the facts that are presented to us and will act in accordance with the Code taking any action that is warranted.”

At least one state regulator has expressed concern over the termination.

“It's not good news,” said John Wayne, executive director of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission, which earlier this year selected Truesdail as its official lab. “I called Norm Hester and went through an agenda of questions I had for him about the two drugs and how they missed them. He said they shouldn't have missed them and assured me they have taken corrective action and is going to give us the very best service.

“We were excited to select (Truesdail) as our lab and be on the same page as Maryland and New Jersey, thinking it would be good for the horsemen,” Wayne added. “That remains to be seen. We've got some quality assurance steps we are going to take as well – we're going to send live samples to another lab.

“You want to have a comfort level,” said Wayne. “You want the RMTC accreditation to mean something. We have faith in RMTC and the fact the laboratory is trying to do the best it can.”

Indiana, meanwhile, has shifted its testing to Industrial Laboratories in Colorado, one of the audit labs that detected the drugs that Truesdail missed.

“We've kept the Department of Administration fully apprised and they are supportive of our need to change laboratories,” said Gorajek, the Indiana commission's executive director.

In a statement made to the Paulick Report, Truesdail said the horse racing industry should not lose faith in the lab's testing capabilities.

“Truesdail has maintained and is committed to maintain both ISO 17025 and RMTC accreditations. In addition to our accreditations, we are also a member of the AORC (Association of Official Racing Chemists) and RMTC Scientific Advisory Committee. As such we are subject to annual audits and proficiency testing evaluations. We have followed all of our accrediting body's guidelines in response to this issue.”

Hanging in the balance is the integrity of clean horse racing, from the sport's biggest events like the Preakness, Arkansas Derby and Haskell Invitational to the small county fairs of Nevada.

Indiana Horse Racing Commission's termination letter to Truesdail Laboratories and supporting documents.

  • Ben van den Brink

    To me it seems that within the accreditation lines, something is purely amissed.

    This goes about faith, and words does not not mean much without action and evidence when other labs came to other conclusions.

    • Ben van den Brink

      How many went through the net, is my question.???

  • Elliott ness

    Wish they would random dna test, to make sure blood is from horse being tested, remember hearing in Arkansas 30 yrs ago for money test barn would send pony blood and urine, they are always clean,.

  • Hamish

    Shady characters in horse racing seem to adore testing labs that can’t find salt in sea water. Truesdail lab shouldn’t have to make any adjustments in its testing protocols as all of those procedures would have already been sanctioned during RMTC accreditation, so why is it doing so? Something stinks here.

    • Alex

      How about the other Racing Commissions accountability? Are the other states that have Truesdail using other labs to see if Truesdail is doing proper testing?

  • Needles

    Great move by Indiana. A lot of jurisdictions don’t care what it called they just go along with the program. Indiana gets it.

    • Alex

      Indiana had in place a program to see if Truesdail was doing the job that they were paid to do and clearly found that Truesdail was NOT up to the task. RMTC accreditation doesn’t appear to be worth much either. Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico are all still using Truesdail; the lab that as one person said “can’t find salt in the Pacific Ocean. Where is the accountability of the executive directors of these racing commissions? Time to regulate the regulators.

      • Ben van den Brink

        If you are thinking about it , my opinion is, they just have not looked into the 26 therapeutic medications, as those medications seems to be a minor issue. Some are just a class 4 violation. With the mpv around those violations are just as important as all others. so Indiana did it right.

        It is also a way, for working cheap, and getting contracts done. But it is just imho.

      • pete

        You are absolutely correct. Are people finally getting that the regulators look the other way, regulatory veterinarians commonly do not know what they are doing, and everyone just figures “that’s racing”?? NJ is one of the worst!

  • Good luck, Ray, on this one. May there not be one rock under which the cheaters can hide an profit.

  • cara james

    time for a new testing lab, one that knows what they doing,keep sending test to a unqualified, lab, is down right stupid,/send to universities,that have qualified labs ,these guys,are contaminating the specimens /why, i would look into that ,what is behind this curtain

  • Peyton

    To paraphrase Tinky ‘Could the industry possibly be more dysfunctional?’

  • David Worley

    I’m all for a jurisdiction switching to a new lab. That said, I’m curious what the third lab found. The third data point could clarify a lot regarding which lab is more accurate. If you have two readings relatively close together and one outlier that says a lot more about the outlier than having one lab versus another. Did the Paulick Report check with the third lab?

    • bhood

      The report shows differences with all the results. Some far enough apart, even on a positive, that in same cases would be a positive and some cases be a negative. How do you tell which one is the most accurate? I don’t know and who does?

  • Once again Joe Gorajec is The Man. At least this lab didn’t try to vilify him and admitted its mistakes. A welcome relief, I am sure, for Joe! Keep up the good work my man. You are my hero.

    • BILL CASNER

      Agreed Barry—Joe practices Ronald Reagan’s mantra “Trust but verify”.
      This is but another reason that we need Federal legislation for central governance of drug testing. Travis Tygart and a USADA cloned organization for racing would sort out the incompetence and shortcomings of the current system and make them uniform and equitable.

      • mikec

        You are delusional if you believe the Feds will get involved in the Mickey Mouse horse racing industry

        • The only involvement of the Feds is to name USADA. They’ve done it in other sports. Racing will get this. If this sport is so Mickey Mouse, why are you on this website?

          • mikec

            Clueless Barry per usual. Racing not a sport. It’s about gambling by players and risk taking by owners.

          • Needles

            What is your real name Mike?

          • mikec

            Harry Schwartz, why does that matter?.Transparent phonies with an agenda need to be called out. All the bs by the elites re meds is doing nothing for those of us that invest billions at the windows or sales. Same nonsense from the same crowd, year after year. Note most are getting their clocks cleaned by the high percentage winning outfits. In NY we call it a suckers holler!.

          • Needles

            Barry likes for people to say their name and I’m trying to avoid him pontificating yet again.

          • mikec

            old saying applies, “once a blowhard, always a blowhard”

        • BILL CASNER

          They already have by granting us a monopoly on interstate gambling with simulcast granted by the Interstate Horse Racing Act.

          Delusional?—perhaps this term is better suited for the current dysfunctional system that is now in place with 38 inept, underfunded jurisdictions that have oversight.
          We can only try–

          • LT owner

            the USADA is the wrong place to put the fate of cheater free racing. even if you don’t believe that who is going to pay for the added cost. owners are already sadled with too much cost and this move would just insure this would be the sport of kings. why do you so quickly discount the industry in place organizations to take control and police our sport. create a division in the Jockey Club or National HBPA or TOBA to solve and deal with our industry. I know most of you boys in KY and NY are ilberials but more Fed over sight and laws doesn’t make things better only worst!

          • BILL CASNER

            “Why do I discount the industry in place organizations.” ?
            Because they are politically appointed members who as a whole lack the expertise, the will and are easily manipulated by the HPBA (which by the way I am a member). Remember this is mostly a non-paid second job with diminished accountability. There are very good commissions such as the one in Indiana led by Joe Gorajec but they are the exception.
            As far as being elitist,–I walked on the racetrack when I was 15 and never made a living with anything else for next 15 years. I counted it up one time and I have spent 2 years of my life living in a tack room on the backsides of different racetracks. The last 6 years I trained thru the midwest and my wife and I ran a mom and pop stable. I know the pressure on a trainer every time they lead a horse to the paddock.

            And where did this “liberal” crap come from—I am probably closer to being libertarian but this is one situation where we need Federal help.
            The current system is dysfunctional, antiquated and doesn’t work.
            We are shrinking at 4% a year because the public has no faith in our integrity. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome” –A. Einstein

          • mikec

            Let me enlighten you Bill. Racing is shrinking not because of the lasix issue. It shrinks because the sophisticated players are too smart to gable into an onerous chop(takeout) which even with rebates if difficult to overcome and make money or hold your own. Lack of transparency overall turns off many large players. We all want a fair/honest shot when we go to the windows. The Clueless Clowns and politically appointed stooges running the game just don’t get that the “gamblers” are tired of hearing the SAME nonsense about lasix, federal intervention et al espoused by the elites.

            Game will survive and maybe expand ONLY when player/gambler issues are brought front and center not the nonsense we hear at symposiums etc attended by the same crowd on their soapboxes for their groups personal agenda.

          • BILL CASNER

            “We all want a fair/honest shot when we go to the windows.” EXACTLY–And this is the ONLY agenda that we all want. The current system can in no way insure this. Why would you not want an independent, non-governmental organization, that has the expertise to implement uniform and effective testing that gives you the confidence in the integrity of our races? Trainers and vets exploit the shortcomings of the current system. Cycling was in the same place as we are know. The sophistication of the timing and administration of true performance enhancing meds is at the same level in our game as it was in cycling. Travis Tygart and USADA stayed the course to bust Lance Armstrong and clean up cycling even when the US Justice Dept. backed down from pursuing charges of defrauding the US Postal Service.
            Read the book Wheel Men and you will understand the depths of performance enhancing drug usage. It is mirror of our industry.
            And who said anything about Lasix? –The real problem is the plethora of performance enhancers like EPO, anabolic steroids, neuro-stimulants and all of the multitude of their analogs that are being synthesized by sophisticated chemist and are clearing test. There is no better proof than the article above that shows that a lot of these labs can’t even catch the simple stuff.

          • mikec

            Hear that but the truth is there is no way to ensure integrity re drugs. There will always be a chemist ahead if the curve offering a PED for which there is no test or which will clear. According to some very close to these issues there are huge over statements on the actual effect of some PEDS on race horses, not that they have any place in the game.

            I would argue that the perception of the games problems with PEDS is far greater than the actual problem

          • Old Timer

            Sorry Bill, but for all this testing you keep talking about Travis Tygart doing and how great he is, he never caught Lance Armstrong with a bad test!! “The evidence presented in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s 202-page report
            on Lance Armstrong’s alleged years of doping, scheming, pushing and
            evading is, according to its authors, “beyond strong.” Even so, the case
            against Armstrong doesn’t involve any definitive failed drug tests”

            With that being the case you want to use somebody that still doesn’t know how to test for the drugs we KNOW about to come in and regulate the testing scheme in the U.S.??? That is completely counter intuitive, i.e. apply your Einstein comment to your own though process on bringing in USADA…

          • LT owner

            Bill like you I am a HBPA member and in fact a director. what you seem to miss is… name me an industry where the Feds oversight or laws have help them prosper or grow. sorry but I can’t come up with even one. the HBPA and Toba boards are voted by their members and not appointed. as far a “second job” unpaid and diminished accountability I disagree. the national HBPA and TOBA are not unpaid and have the platform to lead this fight. Our partners, the tracks, would also be supporting this cause and give assistance. Honest trainers and vets don’t exploit the current system only the questionable ones do. why is there no three strike trainer rule? why do we allow trainers to start horses during the appeal process? why if a trainer have days we allow his wife or children to continue to start the same horses? why do we continue to give HBPA Benefits to trainers who are suspended? Not until we as HORSEMEN take control of our industry and push out the offenders regardless of who they are will we have a clean and transparent industry.

            there are many factors of our industry decline and mikec is correct take out is one. we as horsemen do little to promote our business and do more to protect the ways of the pass, looking to avoid change at all cost.

            USADA is not the answer and the Feds will surely kill any chance of our growth as an industry.

            I understand the definition of insanity. the real reason we are facing these issues are the penalties of breaking the rules have been and continue to be so lack too many take the shot. we don’t need USADA to clean that up we as horsemen can do that our self. Lifetime bans and huge fines would stop the biggest part of the cheating. imagine a $25,000 fine and 5 years for first EPO test with no trainer or owner entries until paid. make it hurt so bad that the trainers/owners say it not worth it regardless of the “pressures” you talk about. we should follow the lead of Dr. Edward Allred and get serious about getting the cheats out of our industry.

          • betterthannothing

            “we don’t need USADA to clean that up we as horsemen can do that our self”

            Sure! Please, let us know when you see concrete signs that horsemen have begun to clean racing up!

            So far the NHBPA and other horsemen groups have been the biggest obstructionists to racing integrity and equine welfare and safety along with drug administrators selling black magic in syringes so all willing horsemen can and many unwilling horsemen must engage in the deadly “chemical warfare” to win races.

            Although racing always had its dirty, abusive horsemen, the 50 year anniversary of permissive, out of control legal (and illegal) drug use is fast approaching. Chemists, drug sellers and chemical users continue to win while horses and honest, caring horsemen continue to loose. A horse often needs at least one month to recover from drugs used before the previous race.

            Do you believe that horsemen will suddenly decide to change after 50 years racing on drugs? No, they will have to be forced to change. The USADA is the best option we’ve got along with racing passing serious reforms to PREVENT the abuse of horses, including drug abuse and doping.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Lets be honest: the Vet,s are pushing for using the needle. Every shot delivers them income. The vet,s are talking to the trainers and at the end the trainers to the owners. So the owners paying the bill. The only way out, if a cheater has been cought than push the button on the owner as well, make them accountable.

            It is my full belief, that if a horse needs medication in order to race, than the horse should not race at all.

        • 4Bellwether666

          USADA will be the DEA of Horse racing late 2015 or early 2016…Book It…

  • gls

    I can”t believe Delaware is concerned with the drug testing, they should be concerned with the back side. If your having trouble cheating (getting caught) just go to Delaware, all good. I stopped with the DC program because its tough to win there without Rx.

    • sabot

      Delaware, PA and NY with the harness. It is amazing the out of nowhere trainers (that have been training for 25yrs with minimal wins) can monopolize the game with what ever their wonder drugs are.
      Take Pena for example, a total alcoholic passsed out at a local hangout but touting his horses to all within hearing distance: top trainer, or any of his posse who are overnight sensations. The state of racing is pitiful be it QH, STB, or TB.

  • thoroughbred watch dog

    So, this lab handles samples pulled from Suffolk Downs. That explains A LOT.

  • 4Bellwether666

    Shows somebody really cares about the integrity of “The Game” thank goodness…

  • Guest

    Labs have different policies, procedures and equipment, so it is not surprising they can come up with different findings. And they bid for the contract, so where is the incentive to upgrade the equipment to the latest and greatest?

  • betterthannothing

    Joe Gorajec is the best. All racing jurisdictions need a strong leader like him. It is unsettling to see what the Indiana Horse Racing Commission has discovered and how many racing commissions use Truesdail Laboratories.

    Since chasing after cheaters, their overages and latest chemical potions post-race is better than nothing but too late especially for horses, the legal and illegal drug problem must be prevented in the first place with tight security around horses, drug control and transparency and huge fines for abuse and doping. USADA should be hired and its work supported with uniform reforms to prevent interrelated problems which begin with the fact that race horses lack protection.

  • Danny Gonzalez

    Maryland used trusedail and we caught them It took the initiative from several individuals to show that truesdail was not testing samples Now is the time for a super lab to be build to be able to handle the testing of race horses The accountability has to come there is to much playing around in horse racing administrations and things need to be done to get more accurate finding delivered to the public

    • Alex

      Maryland is still using Truesdail Lab even after it has been showed over and over they are not doing the job they are being paid to do, WHY??????????????????????????

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