The Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, led by a $25,000 donation from the New York THA, will contribute a total of $50,000 to fund research to develop an inexpensive test for the detection of potential blood doping agents such as erythropoietin (EPO). The two-year study, an initiative of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, will be conducted by Dr. Heather Knych at the K. L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory at UC-Davis. According to RMTC, the goal is to identify more EPO substances at much lower concentrations.
The THA joins the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council in fully funding this study. The THA is comprised of the horsemen’s groups from Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania (Parx Racing).
In addition, the New York THA will donate $120,000 to acquire new equipment for the New York Equine Drug Testing and Research Program at Morrisville State College. The state-of-the-art mass spectrometer will better detect alkalinizing agents in the blood. Alkalinizing agents, such as baking soda, provide a buffer that helps to prevent the build-up of lactic acid in muscle tissue, reducing exercise-induced fatigue.
“The integrity of our sport and the welfare of our horses is of paramount importance,” said THA and NYTHA President Joe Appelbaum. “If these blood-doping and alkalinizing agents are being used in horse racing, we need to dedicate our resources to their detection and eradication. Our horsemen, our bettors and our fans need to know that we have a safe and level playing field.”
EPO is a hormone that promotes red blood cell production. Synthetic EPO, when given to athletes, raises the red blood cell count and allows the blood to carry more oxygen to the muscles, potentially increasing endurance. There have been allegations of micro-dosing in human athletics, particularly cycling.
“Detection of EPO is challenging because there is a very short window of time in which the drug can be found in the blood following administration,” New York’s Equine Medical Director Dr. Scott Palmer explained. “Micro-dosing is the frequent administration of low doses of EPO substances on a schedule that makes it even more difficult to detect. For this reason, research designed to detect EPO when administered at very low levels is extremely important to protect the integrity of the sport of horse racing.”
THA Chairman Alan Foreman added, “Our organization has a long history of supporting efforts to protect our horses and our industry. We have established uniform medication policies and advocated for national reforms. We have made significant strides in the past decade, but there is always more work to be done. We are thrilled to join forces with the RMTC and the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council on this vital study.”