The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission set penalty classifications this week for three new substances after a post-race drug test this fall resulted in a finding for cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is a constituent of cannabis and industrial hemp plants and the active ingredient in CBD oil. The commission voted unanimously to classify the substance as a Class B drug. Horsemen with a Class B finding are subject to suspension of up to 60 days and a fine of up to $1,000 for first offense.
At the same meeting, the commission voted to approve a Class A designation for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and for cardarine, a gene-doping agent banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Class A drugs in Kentucky come with up to a three-year suspension and a fine of $5,000 to $10,000 for first offenders. Class A drugs are those that are not considered to have any legitimate purpose in the horse.
Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the commission, said this was the first time a laboratory has detected cannabidiol in an equine drug test in Kentucky.
“CBD oil is being aggressively marketed on the internet and by some over-the counter outlets for use in horses. It's also being aggressively marketed for use in humans,” said Scollay. “We don't know the extent to which it's being used.
“We don't know what the effects are in horses. We know what's it's being used for in humans, and if it impacts horses the same way, certainly we do not want it influencing a horse's performance.”
Scollay said she has received calls from horsemen asking whether they can use the substance but has advised against it; besides the lack of research into the product's effects on horses, there is also no scientific data on metabolism or withdrawal times in horses.
Commission officials could not disclose the identity of the horse or connections involved in the post-race drug finding for cannabidiol, but said the sample has not yet had split sample testing completed, which means it is not yet considered an official finding. Although the penalty classification was just determined this week, the substance has always been prohibited in the state because it is not on the list of therapeutic substances which are permitted in horses at certain concentrations, so if the finding is confirmed, the horse's connections could face disqualification, fines, or suspensions.
Going forward, some commissioners expressed concern about the potential for contamination as more states move to legalize marijuana and related products. Scollay pointed out that the drug classifications do allow stewards a great deal of latitude to consider evidence suggesting a horse was exposed to a substance inadvertently — statute gives stewards the ability to hand the trainer no suspension if they believe it's warranted, though a horse with a positive test must always be disqualified. She's skeptical human marijuana use will lead to significant accidental exposure, however.
“Even in the states where it's legal and so it's used maybe more publicly, there haven't been any findings for THC,” she said. “And we don't find nicotine in samples. Think how many people smoke. So there is a question about transfer, because it isn't necessarily consistent or pervasive.”
Also at Tuesday's meeting, commissioners voted to fund a pilot project to test different types of bone imaging ahead of a proposed study into sesamoid fractures. The full study, if funded at a later point, would run two years and seek to characterize differences between proximal sesamoids in trained, untrained, and injured horses. The pilot project, which will cost $50,000, would verify whether the suggested imaging techniques will work on this type of bone.
The commission also voted unanimously to fund the placement of moisture sensors on track harrows, which could eventually lead to improved data for track maintenance crews. University of Kentucky's Dr. Mick Peterson, racing surfaces expert, hopes to build a prototype of a system which would provide real-time data about moisture levels across the width of the track each time tractors harrow the surface before and during racing. It's too early to say how the data could be used, but if successful, the device would provide more complete data than the current method for measuring moisture, which entails track personnel using a single device in a few select spots on the racing surface. The moisture sensor project is expected to take one year and will cost $40,000.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2019 Paulick Report.