West Virginia horseracing's transition to new medication rules has not gone smoothly. Since the so-called Mid-Atlantic Uniform Medication and Testing Program went into effect on July 9, dozens of post-race urine samples from Charles Town and Mountaineer Park have tested positive for a variety of therapeutic medications, many of them corticosteroids, according to sources.
Complicating matters is the fact that West Virginia's testing lab, Dalare Associates of Philadelphia, Pa., is not accredited by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, one of the requirements of the new drug rules program. As a result, splits of the samples testing positive by Dalare are being sent for confirmation to Truesdail Laboratory in Tustin, Calif.
Truesdail, which is expected to be named West Virginia's new test lab, is one of five laboratories to receive accreditation from RMTC – the others being UC Davis Kenneth L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory, LGC Sports Science, Ohio Department of Agriculture, and Industrial Laboratories. New York Drug Testing and Research Program and Pennsylvania Equine Toxicology and Research Laboratory are in the accreditation process.
Two of the drugs showing up in test samples are Depo-Medrol (methylprednisolone acetate) and dexamethasone – corticosteroids used to reduce inflammation that previously had shorter administration guidelines. The new controlled medication withdrawal guidelines are 21 days for Depo-Medrol and 72 hours for dexamethasone.
“I don't know the exact number (of positive tests),” said the West Virginia Racing Commission's acting executive director John Myers, who was appointed to the position in March. “We're not oblivious to the problem and it's going to be uncomfortable for a few days. I'm going to be working with other states that have already implemented these rules to see what modifications they've had to do or find out the times for metabolizing. It's a learning curve. I'm not sure what we are going to do.”
The West Virginia Racing Commission met last week and plans to meet again this week to discuss the issue.
Dr. Dionne Benson, executive director of the RMTC, said the withdrawal guidelines are specific concerning timelines, dose, and how the drugs are administered. “Increasing the dose or going intramuscularly can make withdrawal go longer,” she said. “Compounded drugs can also make it worse.”
Benson pointed out that neither Maryland nor Kentucky experienced a change in percentage of medication violations after adopting the new rules, which list 26 permitted drugs, along with withdrawal guidelines, thresholds, route of administration, and experimental administration dosage.
Alan Foreman, chairman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and vice chairman of RMTC who spearheaded the movement toward the new uniform medication rules, echoed Benson's comment about Maryland. “We did not have a problem adjusting to the new program in Maryland. Delaware was where this first got crazy,” Foreman said, in reference to a recent report that some race purses are being held up for weeks because a number of test samples have not been cleared by the LGC Sports Science lab in Lexington, Ky. LGC replaced Dalare as Delaware's official laboratory this year. Maryland moved its testing to Truesdail.
“There were or are issues with the lab in Kentucky,” Foreman said. “We don't know why it's taking so long to get them back.”
As for the problems in West Virginia, he said, “Maybe (horsemen) haven't followed the guidelines. I don't know if it's a testing issue as much as they are not following the guidelines.”
One West Virginia horseman who contacted the Paulick Report said he received notice of a positive test for Depo-Medrol, though it had been more than 40 days since the horse was treated with the medication.
“I'm still investigating,” said the West Virginia Racing Commission's Myers. “Everybody's got an idea as to why this is happening. I don't know that we are 100 percent sure of what it is. I understand powders are different than injectables. All I know is I'm hearing from stewards that have been contacted by Dalare to put this race or that race on hold. Those samples are being sent out for a second test.”
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