The Horse

DEC 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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Page 38 of 51 | The Horse December 2018 39 Also encouraging, Benson adds, is the nature of the relatively few violations. Most are for therapeutic medications being used to treat a medical condition, rather than an attempt to cheat. Clear rates in the sport horse world are comparable to racing's numbers, ranging annually from 0.5 to 1.5%, says Stephen Schumacher, DVM, chief administra- tor for US Equestrian's Equine Drugs and Medication Program. Facing the same financial constraints as racing's regulators—not enough money for all the testing they'd like to do—US Equestrian follows a similar "tactical" approach, but with a few important differences. "We're all trying to do the same thing— to identify drug abusers," Schumacher says. "In racing, they're always looking for ways to make horses run faster and farther, but in our sports it's different. They're usually looking for ways to make horses jump better or perform better in an under-saddle class." In racing, the horse that runs fastest crosses the finish first. At a horse show, measuring success is more complicated, with blue ribbons in untimed events based on a judge's subjective opinion. Sport horse regulators also enjoy more discretion in selecting horses for testing than their colleagues in racing, where rules dictate testing all winners. Without that requirement, drug testing at shows can be directed toward perceived problem areas in a class, division, or event, with targets changing as conditions dictate. "An inherent challenge for us is that our competition venues often change on a weekly basis," Schumacher says. "We use independent contractors who select horses for testing and collect samples, and there always is the possibility for unintentional sampling bias. We don't have the resources to test every horse in a class, and we don't always test the winner of a class. This means that at times we might select a horse for testing that does not have prohibited drugs on board and not select a horse that does. But we're always trying to use our resources in a more focused way, and we do our best to maintain the random nature of the test- ing to deter the violators." One Step Forward, Two Steps Back Benson and Schumacher agree that one of the most frustrating aspects of their work is the inability to see into the future and to know which new drugs to test for before they get used in competition. Regu- lators are constantly playing catch-up. "We can only look for what we already know to look for," Benson says. "Identify- ing a new drug in the laboratory often isn't difficult, but you may never see that drug when you start actual testing. You may only see the metabolites of that drug, and deciding which metabolites to look for complicates the process. Running a drug sample through a machine is not the same as running that drug through a horse." New challenges also include develop- ing effective ways to detect selective androgen receptor modulators, a group of drugs developed during the past few years to increase muscle mass in human ath- letes, and "blood doping" with erythropoi- etin (EPO), says Benson. The emergence of new therapeutic medications that have legitimate uses in veterinary medicine compound the problem for regulators when the same drugs are misapplied as performance enhancers in horses. "You'll get frustrated if you look at progress in short increments," she says. Schumacher and his cadre of scientists, testing veterinarians, and technicians face the same problem. "People often ask me how it feels to be two steps behind," he says. "Sometimes, I'd love to be only two steps behind." A Federal Solution? Anslinger's interest in racing and backstretch raids was short-lived. Already in the process of shifting the Narcotics Bureau's full attention toward illegal drug trafficking for human consumption, his promised federal interventions into posi- tive drug tests in racing never materialized. Medication regulation in racing started at the state level with Widener at Hialeah and stayed there. Rule-making for drug testing and enforcement in the English sport horse world, on the other hand, al- ways has been the responsibility of private organizations, such as US Equestrian in this country and the Fédération Equestre Internationale internationally. Legislation to shift responsibility for drug testing and enforcement from in- dividual states to a single federal agency was introduced in Congress for the first time in 2015, but it never gained traction. Now, with prominent horsemen's groups on both sides of the issue and millions spent in lobbying, that legislative indiffer- ence might be about to change. On May 25, 2017, the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 was introduced in State labs test every race winner, plus some nonwinners chosen because of suspicous performance. ANNE M. EBERHARDT/THE HORSE The goal of drug testing is not to catch every cheater. The goal is to discourage people from cheating in the first place." DR. DIONNE BENSON

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