NYRA said it plans to expand and enhance its in-house drug testing program to detect illegal performance-enhancing substances in thoroughbred race horses, and as a result, the backstretch security barn at Saratoga Race Course will close and no longer operate on opening day, Friday, July 23.
The expanded program includes random out-of-competition testing designed to effectively deter the use of blood doping agents, focusing primarily on claimed horses, horses shipping in and out of NYRA tracks, horses running in stakes races and other random occurrences, according to information from NYRA.
NYRA will also initiate an in-today process which will identify all horses, in their stalls, running in a NYRA race within 24 hours, which will give NYRA the ability to monitor horses the day prior to and in the hours leading up to a race. This will be achieved through the deployment of an even stronger backstretch presence of NYRA veterinarians and security officers. With the new drug testing program, NYRA will continue to test for illegal levels of total carbon dioxide (TCO2, known as "milkshaking") through an "assembly barn" where all horses entering a race will be required to report just prior to moving to the paddock for saddling.
NYRA's new testing regimen will be accompanied by penalties for trainers of horses testing positive for illegal drugs. Trainers of horses testing positive for Class A drug violations will face a minimum mandatory one-year disbarment from entering horses or being allocated stalls at NYRA racetracks as a first offense; a minimum mandatory disbarment of two years for a second violation; and a permanent disbarment for a third violation, according to NYRA. Trainers serving disbarments will not be allowed to transfer their training responsibilities to family members or current employees.
"The out-of-competition drug testing program combined with the new assembly barn and 'in-today' procedures will provide NYRA with potent tools to confront today's challenges of detecting performance-enhancing substances and allow us to stay one step ahead of potential abusers," said NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward in a statement. "The science empowering cheaters has changed since 2005 and these new procedures will ensure that NYRA's countermeasures keep pace in order to preserve the integrity of the sport.""