Ohio State Drops Split-Sample Testing

The equine drug-testing program at Ohio State University is no longer providing split-sample testing as a result of an institutional policy.

Dr. Rick Sams, director of the analytical toxicology laboratory at OSU's College of Veterinary Medicine, said he was informed in late July that split-sample testing would no longer be performed at the lab.

Under the equine drug-testing system, horsemen whose horses test positive for some substances in post-race testing can request that a portion of the test sample be sent to a second lab for conformation of the positive finding. Most racing jurisdictions maintain lists of labs from which horsemen can select the sample to be sent; some dictate the lab for the split-sample testing.

Sams, who on Aug. 6 declined to detail the reasons why split-sample testing has been dropped at OSU, said it was unrelated to the lab's role in the recent rash of positive tests for the prohibited substance clenbuterol among horses racing in California. The California Horse Racing Board reported 20 positives for clenbuterol between May 16 and July 11. Only one of the samples proved negative in split-sample testing. Most of the split samples were tested at OSU.

"It is a university decision that we should not continue with that (split-sample) testing," Sams said. "It had nothing to do with clenbuterol or California. It's an internal policy decision."

Among a half-dozen labs widely-used by North American racing commissions for split-sample testing, OSU had performed the tests on split samples from New York, Maryland, Kentucky, California, Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, and Florida within the past year, according to Sams.

Sams said the role of the split-sample testing lab extends beyond merely confirming or not confirming the positive finding of a primary testing lab. In conducting split-sample testing, Sams said the lab worked with trainers in an effort to determine how a prohibited substance could make its way into a horse's system.

"I personally believe this laboratory did a service to the racing industry by doing split-sample analyses," Sams said. "In many cases we were able to work with the trainers and provide testing that helped them understand what might have happened that led to the positive finding. The split-sample laboratory has an advantage over the original lab in that they know what (substance) they are looking for and can discuss with the trainer possible scenarios."

Tony Chamblin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International that oversees the Testing Integrity Program, of which OSU is a member, said he was unaware of the decision to drop split-sample testing at the Ohio institution. Because of the number of other labs performing split-sample testing, Chamblin said the overall effect on the racing industry would be limited.

"I wouldn't think the overall impact would be that great," Chamblin said, "because there are other options."

Chamblin would not speculate on reasons for the OSU decision.

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