Before making a formal recommendation of a regulatory testing limit, North American racing regulators have decided to consider the results of two scientific research studies commissioned to help detect the deliberate administration of cobalt in racehorses.

The Association of Racing Commissioners International said that a proposed threshold was presented at the group's model rules meeting last week. That threshold was later withdrawn by members of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC), pending further discussion by the RMTC board of directors.

That threshold—which is based on an analysis of an RMTC-coordinated project that is funded by the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council and conducted by Heather Knych, DVM, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine—was advanced with the support of 8 of the 14 members of the RMTC Scientific Advisory Committee.

A second research project, funded by the United States Trotting Association (USTA), is near completion, according to USTA chairman Ivan Axelrod. That project is being conducted by George Maylin, DVM, PhD, at the New York Drug Testing and Research Program at Morrisville State College in New York. He is assisted by Karyn Malinowski, PhD, and Kenneth McKeever, MS, PhD, FACSM, the director and associate director, respectively, of the Rutgers University Equine Science Center in New Jersey.

All horses have some degree of cobalt in their system as a result of diet and environmental factors. However, excessive amounts could indicate a deliberate administration, above and beyond what would be considered appropriate or normal for vitamin or mineral supplements.

Racing regulators are concerned that cobalt treatments might be given to racehorses with an intent to affect performance by inducing red blood cell production, a similar effect as when the prohibited product erythropoietin (or EPO) is administered. They hope to better understand if an equine welfare threat exists with regard to cobalt administration.

Originally published on

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