Excessive Cobalt Levels Detected in Meadowlands Racehorses

Drug testing at an East Rutherford, N.J., harness racing track in has revealed high cobalt levels in two racehorses' blood.

In a written statement on its website, The Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment said out-of-competition testing revealed an excessive amount of cobalt in the two horses' blood. Cobalt was presumably used as a performance-enhancing substance, the statement said. As a result of the testing, two unnamed trainers were banned from racing at The Meadowlands; Vernon Downs, in Vernon, N.Y.; and Tioga Downs, in Nichols, N.Y., the statement said.

Also, as the result of its testing and consultation with veterinarians, racetrack administrators determined that cobalt administered to a horse in excess as a performance enhancing substance can be harmful, said the statement.

“When used in excess, the effects of cobalt can be, but are not limited to, cardiovascular issues, potential nerve problems, thickening of the blood, and thyroid toxicity,” the statement said.

Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., said cobalt is a trace element central in cyanocobalamin, or vitamin B-12--the most likely source of the cobalt in the horse’s blood, she said. 

In and of itself cobalt can be toxic if given as a single element in high amounts, “the same as selenium, chromium, and many others,” Ralston said. She noted that vitamin-B-12 is not known to be toxic.

The Meadowlands' administration has since established that if a horse has a cobalt level of more than four times the standard deviation above the normal level, the trainer of that horse will be unable to participate in racing at The Meadowlands, Vernon Downs, and Tioga Downs.

“This is not about catching trainers that are cheating, this is about keeping our equine athletes safe and healthy, and providing our betting public and all of our participants a product that is on a level playing field,” The Meadowlands statement said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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