Cobalt Positives Rock Harness Racing

In today, Bill Finley reported on the cobalt positives at the Meadowlands. Two of Corey Johnson's horses - who raced in the Breeders' Crown; one of them winning - tested "about 5 times" too high (the threshold set in Indiana, of 25 parts per billion is what I believe the Meadowlands uses to trigger a positive). Mr. Johnson was already making news before the Breeders Crown, because one of his horses tested with a high TCO2, a week before the big race, and he was in the process of being suspended in Canada.

Right now the purse money will not be redistributed, because the New Jersey commission does not test for the drug, and has no policy in the matter. Gural, as most of you know, sends samples to Hong Kong to be tested.

Breeders' Crown head Tom Charters comments:
  •  "There is no consensus among scientists, the scientific advisory committee of the RMTC, and I am on that board, the USTA, and state regulators. This is something with a lot of moving parts that's being looked into. I don't think you can call this a positive or even an excess of cobalt. It's all speculation. I have seen a report from the lab but it raises many questions. There are a lot of different scientific opinions out there, including a study funded by the USTA with Doctors Maylin, McKeever and Malinowski, and I'm not sure they would agree that this constitutes an excess.
    "I admire Jeff's attempts when it comes to integrity in the sport, but I'm not sure... To say this constitutes a positive test is way overreaching."
Those comments set a bit of a firestorm on social media last evening. And, when we look at the numbers, the comments can be classed as curious.

The study Mr. Charters is alluding to, is a horsemen led study, reported on by Matt Hegarty in October.
  •  The study, which has not yet been released for review, is recommending that the threshold for cobalt be set at 70 parts per billion, nearly three times the 25-ppb threshold adopted recently in Indiana and, for Standardbreds in New York. The latest study, which was led by Dr. George Maylin, the head of New York’s Drug Testing and Research Program at Morrisville State College, was funded by the United States Trotting Association, which has a strained relationship with the organization leading an effort to reform racing’s medication rules.
Without knowing the levels these horses were tested at, but by using simple math, "five times" the level Gural uses would be 125 ppb, which is over the 70 ppb that's recommended by the study Mr. Charters has referenced.

Regardless, this is another black eye for a sport not in need of one. It's high time harness racing decides what it wants to be, and how it wants to conduct business, and enact some sort of plan to clean it up. The sport - its participants and its horses, not to mention the fans - simply can't take much more of it.


Clara Fenger, DVM, PhD, DACVIM said...

HOLD ON @pullthepocket. The samples were run in Hong Kong. Hong Kong uses a threshold of 2 ppb. Five times their threshold is 10 ppb. Well below the Indiana threshold, and well below the more appropriate threshold of 70 ppb, supported by the research.

Pull the Pocket said...

That might be true Doc Clara. We just don't know.



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