New York Commission Approves Cobalt Threshold, Additional Drug Rules

by | 09.24.2015 | 5:40pm
Eight bottles of concentrated cobalt mistakenly delivered to the wrong clinic helped uncover a widespread drug issue in Australian racing

The New York State Gaming Commission unanimously proposed a series of updates to the state's codes for post-race drug testing Thursday, including adding a threshold for cobalt.

The commissioners agreed to language that would make it a violation for a horse to test over 50 ng/ml of cobalt in plasma, with levels above 300 ng/ml punishable as blood doping violations. Although the meeting's materials note that the 50 ng/ml threshold is one recommended by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, New York's proposed language did not go as far as the wording outlined by ARCI that was passed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission earlier this year. That rule set an additional 25 ng/ml threshold at which trainers would get a warning and a fine, the idea being that it would be highly unusual for levels to naturally fall higher than 25 ng/ml. A test of 50 ng/ml or higher in Kentucky results in a fine of up to $1,000, a suspension, and/or purse forfeiture.

In New York, a test over 50 ng/ml will result in a suspension between 15 and 60 days. In both states, offending horses will be placed on the veterinarian's list until their level drops below the legal limit.

In additional rulemaking business, commissioners approved rule updates banning stanozolol (which is not one of the hormones found naturally in horses), adding thresholds to guide the use of the bronchodilator albuterol and the corticosteroid isoflupredone. The addition of isoflupredone to the list of regulated corticosteroids also came with a special provision for the class of drugs—corticosteroid joint injections may not be given to horses within one week of a race; however, if a veterinarian can show in his records that the drug was injected outside of the seven-day restriction, that the trainer notified the commission of its use, and that the trainer had not previously been warned about misuse of the substance, a post-race test over the threshold would not be considered a violation.

According to equine medical director Dr. Scott Palmer, this provision was included because there is evidence that the dosing or presence of other drugs can alter the rate of withdrawal for corticosteroids in joints, and the commission did not want to punish horsemen unfairly.

More language was added guiding the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories in hopes of preventing “stacking” of multiple drugs in the category at once. The commissioners approved a measure to restrict any NSAID administration at 48 hours pre-race to one drug, with any others in that category withdrawn at least a week pre-race.

“It seems like a positive step moving forward to eliminate race-day drugs,” said commissioner Peter Moschetti, Jr.

Rule updates were also passed to require trainers to complete four hours of continuing education credit each year under the supervision of the commission via online presentations and quizzes. The system would fall in line with suggestions made by experts at this year's Jockey Club Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit. A trainer failing to complete the credit hours would not be permitted to renew their license.

Also at Thursday's meeting, commissioners tabled a suggestion to halt post-race testing for claimed horses, citing a need to reduce testing costs. Commissioners expressed concern about the impact of such defunding and require more information to make a decision.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the New York State Gaming Commission is Oct. 26.

  • Mike

    Part of the steady drum beat of reform even if it is sidestepping some while moving forward here with a couple of steps forward). For example, maybe just use the CA voided claim rule, focusing on soundness more than the test of substances, for a more thorough reform on claimers soundness.

    And these reforms still gives us some patchwork of rules on some substances (diverging from ARCI) but probably to be expected as states vary).

    Ideally, some of these levels could come down even more next year or even be phased out. I do see how boards are challenged not to suddenly change all the rules and practices which could shock the industry some, putting many trainers in hearings, reducing the race cards, and put many vets out of biz…

    The incremental phase in may help the industry adapt and change without shutting down. If they can make a few positive changes (less drugs, more oversight) every meeting, we will have an improved safer sport in a few years.

    • Peyton

      How many years? This has been going on and on and on for at least 10 years without much punishment to the offenders. It’s time to say ‘these are the rules and if you violate them you are out of business.’ IMO

      • Chancey Gardner

        yep – go take a civil service exam

  • ben van den brink

    Why do they nor follow Indiana and Kentucky in regard to the cobalt rules over there, this is creating a non level playing field.

    There must be a lot of people punching over and over again, to come up with these soft rules.

    • Neigh Sayer

      I agree. Indiana has led in many ways, yet no one even looks at what they did or why they did and what they are doing. The USADA will solve much of this.

  • Dr. Scott Palmer’s influence is starting to be felt in a very positive manner.

  • Neigh Sayer

    It’s about time, and a good thing finally. However not sure if I got all the context but if I did there won’t be a fine until the level hits the stratosphere of 300 ng/ml which would be more than ten times what could be found naturally.
    There are other things to nit pic like a legal drug not allowed race day which is used as a performance enhancer and not for it’s intended purpose, and now allows a threshold making it even worse, but that’s for another topic. On another good note, they are taking steps to stem stacking.
    On cobalt, now that they at least test for it, planes might have less equine passengers. I wonder how many years it will be before the CHRB even thinks about cobalt.

    • Chancey Gardner

      As long as they profit by not thinking about it … a long time.

    • Natalie Voss

      The penalties associated with an overage above 50 ng/ml and below 300 ng/ml were not outlined in the rule language, but if they are adhering to the ARCI suggested penalty schedule for cobalt, there could also be a fine of $500 for a first offense. According to ARCI’s schedule, penalties become harsher for repeat offenders.

      • Peyton

        So for a grade I the risk reward is fairly acceptable? Not withstanding the removal of purse money if caught. Everybody knows this drug is being used for performance enhancement. So why the small penalty? Because the science isn’t able to keep up with the cheaters? This substance has been shown to be dangerous to horses.

  • Idiotsincharge

    Anyone who knows anything about athletes and natural substances would ever regulate anything a human, equine or anything living needs to exist. When you regulate natural substances you are effectively regulating how hard someone can train. I’m not gonna explain and I’m sure all of you people who haven’t a clue about regulating anything will say things that are completely untrue. It seems like everyone on the paulick report is quick to call everyone cheaters. You all must not be able to win a race.

    • Chancey Gardner

      And you must have skipped remedial English class.

      • Chancey Gardner

        perhaps science, too!

      • Idiotsincharge

        I skipped all of it. Now what?

        • ben van den brink

          I have had the pleasure not only to races, without added cobalt, but even a placed horse in a stakes.

          The normal cobalt is between 3 and 13. Injectables are not naturally at all.

          There is no need for pushing all and everything, if all the people would do the same.

  • youcantmakeitup

    All these states can make rules and regulations regarding medications , electrical devices , claiming rules etc. but if they are not enforced fairly then isn`t doesn`t make a bit of difference. Its all about who you are , how many horses you have, the quality of your horse flesh and who you know. Someone in a lab is already creating the next designer drug that can`t be detected all these ” pro regulation groups” who are still stuck with how to regulate the obvious ones.

  • hype22redux

    its official Richard baltas is the new ted west,just a matter of how many positives they discover way to late….you heard it here first

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