Gorajec: New Jersey’s Official Testing Lab Admits Error, But Questions Remain

by | 03.22.2020 | 4:37pm
Truesdail Laboratories in Irvine, Calif., testing lab for the New Jersey Racing Commission

This is one of those instances where it's better late than never.

Recently, I wrote a piece about the unfairness of trainer Glenn Thompson's ongoing disciplinary travails for Horse Racing Reform called, “New Jersey drug finding: Bad regulation and poor judgment equals injustice for Monmouth Park trainer.” In brief, a horse of Mr. Thompson's that won a maiden special weight race at Monmouth Park July 5, 2019, was found to contain 5 nanograms per milliliter of methocarbamol.

The finding was made by the New Jersey Racing Commission's (NJRC) primary equine testing laboratory, Truesdail Laboratories. The permitted threshold for this therapeutic medication is 1 nanogram per milliliter. What I found so disturbing was that Mr. Thompson was suspended, fined, and required to forfeit the purse, even after the split sample of his horse, Shield of Faith, was found at a concentration BELOW the NJRC's own rule.

In a follow-up piece posted March 9, 2020, called, “Industry expert on New Jersey methocarbamol findings: The quantitative analysis is likely both inaccurate and imprecise,” Dr. Rick Sams pointed out several possible shortcomings in the testing of two methocarbamol findings after reviewing two of Truesdail Laboratories' data packets, including Mr. Thompson's.

Coincidently or not, on the same day my piece was posted, the NJRC indicated it received a letter from  Truesdail Laboratories that an error occurred when testing Mr. Thomson's horse's sample. As a result, the laboratory reissued its drug test report with a finding of “no positive due to overage.” The source of this information is a letter dated March 16, 2020, that was sent to Mr. Thompson by NJRC Executive Director Judith Nason.

Therefore, I am assuming that this case, which has been on appeal, will be dismissed.

The laboratory's reversal aside, there is much more that the public needs to know.

I called the NJRC for Ms. Nason and was referred to an individual in the state's attorney general's office. This person indicated that I should put any questions in writing, and that he would forward them on for a response.

More questions than answers

Here are just a few of the unanswered questions for the NJRC:

  1. When was Truesdail Laboratories informed that three of its methocarbamol findings were found at substantial concentration higher than when the samples were analyzed by split sample laboratories?
  2. Were any other findings of Truesdail Laboratories found to be in error?
  3. Have you initiated an independent review (investigation) of Truesdail Laboratories? If yes, by whom? If no, why not?
  4. Will the NJRC amend its split sample rule to prevent future prosecutions of individuals when the split sample concentration falls below the commission's thresholds?
  5. Will the NJRC provide a list (date, track, drug, concentrations, etc.) of each instance within the past three years of split samples findings below regulatory thresholds?

Stepping up to the plate

The disciplinary action against Mr. Thompson should have never taken place. First, the primary laboratory's finding was in error. Second, the split sample laboratory's finding was below the permitted concentration. Despite all this, the NJRC board of stewards went forward with a hearing and penalized Mr. Thompson.

To date, according to Mr. Thompson, he has spent more than $15,000 defending himself on this matter ($1,250 for split sample testing, $12,500 in attorney fees, and $1,500 for an expert witness).

Mr. Thompson should be reimbursed for all these expenses, and the NJRC needs to make that happen.

Up until now, the NJRC's actions make me question the regulators' competence, fairness, and willingness to regulate with transparency.

Let's see if they reverse course.

Former Indiana Horse Racing Commission executive director Joe Gorajec is a consultant whose clients include Horse Racing Reform, an industry initiative led by The Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

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