The AGCO regulates a number of different testing programs to ensure the fair and safe operation of racing in Ontario.
Each day of live racing, persons in safety sensitive positions, including trainers, drivers and jockeys, are required to submit to a breath analysis test for blood alcohol levels. Any readings over the accepted limits are reported to the Judges/Stewards for action and any participant programmed to ride or drive will be relieved of their duties. Any person refusing to submit to the test will also be relieved of their duties. The program is in place to ensure a safe racing environment for all participants.
The AGCO has the authority to conduct unannounced drug testing on all licensees in safety sensitive positions for the presence of illegal drugs, prohibited substances and impairing prescription medication. Licensees chosen for drug testing are required to provide an oral fluid sample. Depending on the outcome of the test, a licensee may be immediately suspended from his or her duties until such time as a Medical Review Officer has provided a report to the Commission and the Registrar has made a decision on the future status of the licensee. Refer to Thoroughbred Directive 1-2017 and Thoroughbred Rules Chapter 38 for more details. The program is in place to ensure a safe racing environment for all participants.
EPO Antibody Testing Program
Horses racing in Ontario are tested for Erythropeietin (commonly known as EPO) and darbepoetin (DAR) antibodies. Horses testing positive are removed from racing. EPO triggers the horse’s body to produce more red blood cells and is thought to improve performance by increasing the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity. Regulators around the world have been working to eliminate the use of the drug because of its potential effects on performance and its detrimental impact on the health of the animal.
An excess level of total carbon dioxide (TCO2) in a racehorse is felt to be adverse to the interests of the horse. While sometimes referred to as “milkshaking,” carbon loading is felt to enhance performance by removing lactic acid from a horse’s system which would otherwise cause the animal to tire towards the end of the race. In 1992, the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) established rules to allow for the testing for bicarbonate on a track by track basis as available. In 1999, the ORC implemented a province wide testing program for TCO2. The AGCO has continued this practice.
All horses racing in Ontario are tested for TCO2. Any positive reading is dealt with as a Class III positive test. In circumstances where an owner or trainer feels that a high reading is normal for their horse, processes are available to have the horse placed in quarantine at the owner’s expense to make a determination.