USTA to Fund Research into Cobalt Use

The United States Trotting Association (USTA) said June 16 it will fund a project designed to develop regulatory controls for the use of cobalt in racehorses.

Cobalt is used to stimulate red blood cell production, and USTA officials say the substance is being detected in all breeds of racehorses.

The research will be performed by George Maylin, DVM, PhD, of the New York Drug Testing and Research Program at Morrisville State College in New York. He will be assisted by Karyn Malinowski, PhD, and Ken McKeever, MS, PhD, FACSM, the director and associate director, respectively, of the Equine Science Center at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

"It has become obvious that in all racing breeds the presence of cobalt is being detected," USTA president Phil Langley said in a release. "Since it is a naturally occurring substance, the question that arises is when the amount is natural and when is it added to a horse's system to enhance performance. We believe this research will give all breeds a standard that will withstand any court challenges."

Maylin said he initiated discussions with the USTA and Joe Faraldo, president of the Standardbred Owners of New York and a USTA director.

"Cobalt has been rumored to be used with horses for a number of years," Maylin said. "It started perhaps six or seven years ago. So we started delving into the literature and did research. It became apparent that cobalt was getting widespread use, but only recently has there been concern in horses."

Maylin said the research requires new testing equipment. "We now have a state-of-the-art instrument, the Agilent 8800 Triple Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer ICP-MS, that we are going to get access to lease for five years and have to a way to pay for it, thanks to the USTA."

Maylin said he hopes the results of the research are available by the end of this summer.

Originally published on

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