Equine Drug Control - Questions and Answers


This Question and Answer page has been produced by the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency (CPMA), the federal agency that regulates and supervises pari-mutuel betting at horse racetracks across Canada. In keeping with the CPMA's mandate of protecting the betting public, the Agency operates an Equine Drug Control Program in the objective of preventing the uncontrolled use of prohibited substances (drugs and medicines) in racehorses.

The questions and answers contained on this page provide information that will assist owners, trainers, grooms, veterinarians, and others involved in preparing a horse to race, in complying with the Pari-Mutuel Betting Supervision Regulations as they pertain to prohibited substances. It also addresses many of the most frequently asked questions about how the CPMA's Equine Drug Control Program works. Below, you will find explanations of common terms used in the field of equine drug testing and answers to questions about how and why samples are collected.

Speaking a common language

1. What is a prohibited substance?
Most drugs and medicines (with the exception of vitamins and some anti-parasitic and antimicrobial agents) are prohibited in horses at race time. The Pari-Mutuel Betting Supervision Regulations and the CPMA Elimination Guidelines, available from CPMA, contain detailed definitions of prohibited substances. CPMA personnel can also provide further information.
2. What is an official sample?
An official sample is a sample of urine or blood that is collected at a racetrack from a horse by, or under the supervision of, a test inspector for the purpose of determining whether a prohibited substance is present.
3. What is a positive test?
A positive test occurs when the presence of a prohibited substance is detected and confirmed in an official sample by a qualified official chemist working in a lab under contract to the CPMA.
4. Who is an official chemist?
An official chemist is designated by CPMA, and analyzes official samples in a lab under contract to the Agency. These labs are accredited by the Standards Council of Canada.
5. Who is a test inspector?
Test inspectors are in charge of the test barn. This includes the collection of samples, the supervision of the horse, its sample, and related documents.
6. What do the terms qualitative analysis and quantitative analysis mean?
Qualitative analysis is the identification of the substance in a sample. Quantitative analysis is the measurement of the concentration of a substance in a sample.

Collection of samples

7. Why are samples collected from racehorses?
Samples are collected from racehorses to test for the presence of prohibited substances, in support of the CPMA's mandate to protect the betting public.
8. How is a horse selected for testing?
Judges/stewards generally select horses, for testing. Horses may be selected at random or on the basis of their racing performance.
9. When and where are samples collected?
Immediately after a race, the horse is taken to the test barn (retention area), where it is placed in a secure stall until such time as a urine or blood sample is obtained. In some instances, horses may be selected for pre-race sample collection.
10. Are both urine and blood samples always collected?
No. In the event that horse does not produce a urine sample within a period of up to one hour after the last race of the day, a blood sample is collected in the test barn. Blood samples are also taken from horses that are entered in special drug-control programs such as the Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH) Lasix7® (Salix ®) Program and the Quantitative Limit Program.
11. Does a test inspector always collect the official sample from a racehorse?
Test inspectors collect official samples from racehorses. However, if a horse has a history of being difficult, the owner/trainer or their designated representative may be requested to collect a urine sample under the supervision of the test inspector.
12. What happens to an official sample after it is collected?
Once an official sample is collected, the sample is sealed, labeled, and placed in a box with other samples from that race day. The label on the sample contains only the track name, date, and sample number. The horse's name and other identifying information, cross-referenced to the sample number, is retained at the track. The box is locked, sealed, and shipped to an official lab for analysis.

Analysis of official samples

13. What happens to a sample after it reaches the lab?
The numerical tracking of the sample continues at the lab and is maintained throughout the testing process, which lasts three to seven days.

Analysis of official samples is designed to cover as broad as possible a range of prohibited substances. These methods include *ELISA + (immunoassay), *HPLC + (high performance liquid chromatography), and *MS+ (mass spectrometry).

14. What do screening and confirmation mean?
Screening is the initial phase of testing conducted by a chemist to detect evidence of prohibited substances in an official sample. Confirmation is the next phase of testing in which a chemist conducts further tests to confirm the presence of a prohibited substance that was suspected in the screening phases.
15. Is every drug and medicine tested for in every sample?
No. Different types of tests are used for different drugs and medicines. Broad-range tests are applied to every sample. Various types of target or special tests are used to screen for drugs and medicines that are not detected in broad-range screening. Target tests are used on a random basis.
16. How is the quality of the analysis checked?
The CPMA operates a Quality Assurance program to monitor all aspects of the official labs' operation. It inspects facilities, equipment, and procedures, and conducts qualification testing of official chemists. The CPMA sends check samples every month to each lab to monitor the analytical process used by the labs.
17. How long after a sample is collected are positive results reported?
Positive tests are normally reported to the CPMA and officials of the provincial racing commission within fourteen calendar days of the race date.
18. Who receives a report of a positive test?
A certificate of positive analysis is sent to both CPMA and the provincial racing commission. The certificate states the drug name, sample ID number, and other relevant information. The certificate does not state the name of the horse or trainer.
19. What happens after a positive test is reported?
After a positive test is reported, the provincial racing commission notifies the trainer of the horse that produced a positive test sample. A judges'/stewards' hearing is held to assess the penalty to be given, according to the commission's rules. The owner/trainer has a right to appeal the ruling to the provincial racing commission.

Requests for sample residue analysis

20. What is a sample residue?
A Sample residue is the urine or blood remaining after the analysis of an official sample has been completed.
21. Why is access provided to sample residue?
Owners/trainers may request the sample residue for independent testing to verify a positive test result.
22. Where is an independent analysis conducted?
An independent analysis is conducted at a referee lab; selected by the owner/trainer.
23. What should an owner/trainer consider when selecting a referee lab?
An owner/trainer should be careful when selecting a referee lab and consider the lab's methods of conducting an analysis. If the methods used at the referee lab are not comparable to those used by the primary lab, the analytical results of the referee lab may not be given equal weight as evidence at a hearing.
24. Is a sample residue always available?
A sample residue may not always be available. For example, a horse may not provide enough urine at the time the official sample is collected or the entire amount may be required for the primary analysis of the sample.
25. How does an owner/trainer obtain a sample residue?
The owner/trainer obtains a sample residue by sending a written request to the provincial racing commission. It is important to note that a time limit applies. Contact your racing commission for details.
26. Are there costs associated with sample residue analysis?
Yes. The owner/trainer pays the entire cost associated with sample residue, including fees for packing and transfer of the residue from the primary lab to the referee lab, and charges of the referee lab for analysis of the sample residue.
27. What happens if the referee lab does not confirm the positive result obtained by the official lab?
As part of an appeal of a positive test, the provincial racing commission will review results from both labs and make a decision based on evidence. Analysts from both labs could be called to an appeal hearing to explain their findings.
28. What factors could cause analytical result to differ?
Drug breakdown or sample deterioration could cause different analytical results. Lab capabilities may also differ depending on equipment and personnel.

Drugs, medications, and your horse

29. Who determines which substances are prohibited?
The CPMA, in consultation with a drug advisory committee composed of veterinarians and chemists, determines which substances are prohibited. Prohibited substances are listed in the Schedule to the Pari-Mutuel Betting Supervision Regulations, and in the CPMA Elimination Guidelines.
30. What are the "Elimination Guidelines"?
The Elimination Guidelines provide information on prohibited substances and their detection limits in horses, as determined by CPMA research. The information on detection limits contained in the booklet provides useful withdrawal guidelines for trainers and veterinarians when administering therapeutic medicines to horses that require treatment between races.
31. How does an owner/trainer determine whether a medicine contains a prohibited substance?
An owner/trainer may determine if a medicine contains a prohibited substance in the following ways:
  • by carefully reading the product label,
  • by consulting the Elimination Guidelines, and
  • by contacting a veterinarian or the CPMA for more information.
32. What precautions can an owner/trainer take to avoid positive test from his or her horse?
Injectables are not the only source of prohibited substances. Drugs and medications may enter a horse's system through skin absorption as well as by mouth. Liniments, leg rubs, herbal remedies, and feed supplements are potential sources of prohibited substances. Therefore, care should be taken when using these products on or around a horse scheduled to race.

For more information on potential sources of prohibited substances, contact a veterinarian or the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency.

33. What is Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage program?
The Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH) program is an optional, user-pay program that allows the medicine Furosemide (Lasix ®, Salix ®) to be administered to a horse four hours (plus or minus 15 minutes) before it is schedules to race. Furosemide, which alleviates the symptoms of EIPH (bleeding in the lungs during strenuous exercise), can only be administered to a horse that is diagnosed with EIPH, and that is appropriately documented with the provincial racing commission.
34. What is the Quantitative Limit Program?
The Quantitative Limit program is an optional, user-pay program that gives special consideration to low-level residue concentrations of the antibiotic Penicillin G Procaine (concentration limits are published in the Elimination Guidelines). Therapeutic doses of the antibiotic may be administered to a horse under this program provided that the treatment is at least 48 hours before the horse's next race, and that the appropriate documentation of the treatment is submitted to the test barn at least one half hour before the post time of the race in which the horse is entered. Penicillin G Procaine is currently the only drug regulated in this way.

Roles and responsibilities

35. What measures are in place to protect owners'/trainers' interests in regard to equine drug testing?
Measures that are in place include prohibiting unauthorized personnel in the test barn, allowing the owner/trainer to witness sample collection and labelling, and ensuring that samples are handled and analyzed in a uniform manner at labs. In the event of a positive test, the owner/trainer has the right to appeal the decision to the provincial racing commission, and to request an independent analysis of the sample residue. Check with your racing commission for details.
36. What are the responsibilities of an owner/trainer when his or her horse is selected for testing?
The owner/trainer is responsible for bringing the horse to the test barn directly from the track, or for directing a licensed representative to do so. An owner/trainer/representative may witness the collection, labelling, sealing and packaging of the sample, and sign the accompanying documents. When requested by a chief test inspector, the trainer must collect the official sample, under supervision.
37. Who pays for the CPMA Equine Drug Control Program?
The CPMA Equine Drug Control Program is funded by the betting public. A federal levy of less than one penny of each dollar bet in Canada pays for all CPMA services including: the drug control service, the research program, the quality assurance program, and pari-mutuel supervision. Some special drug control activities, such as the EIPH, sample residue, and Quantitative Limit programs are provided by third parties on a user-pay basis.

For more information

For more information on the CPMA Equine Drug Control Program or to obtain a copy of the CPMA Elimination Guide, please contact:

Manager, Research & Analysis Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Lydia Brooks
P.O. Box 5904
LCD Merivale
Ottawa, ON K2C 3X7

Tel: 613-949-0745
Fax: 613-949-1538
E-mail: lydia.brooks@canada.ca

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