AERC Prohibited Substance Testing Policy

The purpose of this policy is to provide procedures for the implementation of AERC Rule 13 on Prohibited Substances. It is not intended to alter or supersede Rule 13 in any way. It is intended to clarify how testing for Prohibited Substances will be accomplished in an effective and defensible manner.

The testing for Prohibited Substances shall be supervised by a Drug Testing Subcommittee of the Veterinary Committee with consultation as necessary from the Legal Committee. The Drug Testing Subcommittee shall be composed of the Chair of the Drug Testing Subcommittee, along with two to three other members of the Veterinary Committee and the Chair of the Veterinary Committee. Testing services will be supervised by the AERC Drug Testing Subcommittee, and testers will be selected from the AERC pool of veterinarians, with outside, private veterinarians hired as needed. The sample analysis of the collected samples will be performed by the Maddy Laboratory of the University of California at Davis. The state of California and Canada are exempted from this testing, as the CA Equine Medications and Monitoring Program is responsible for all drug testing of equestrian events in the state of California and Equine Canada is responsible for drug testing in Canada. The AERC Drug Testing Program will be funded by a rider drug testing fee of $6 for each starting rider.


The Drug Testing Subcommittee, with consultation with the AERC Executive Director when needed, shall select for each ride season two rides per region, except for the Pacific Southwest Region, which is largely composed of California. At least one additional ride from any region will be tested, and both days of the National Championships for Prohibited Substances. The selection of rides to be tested will be kept confidential.

In each ride tested by AERC Drug Testers, the testers and technicians shall collect blood samples from twelve equines. Depending on the ride selected, testers may be directed to collect samples from multiple distances, with a minimum of twelve total samples collected for the ride day. Testing is to be performed in a non-directed manner representative of all equines competing. Testers ideally are to test from first place to last place, and in general will be directed to select equines for testing based on the number of ride entries, versus how many samples are to be collected per distance. Testers may select an equine that has not completed the ride and was eliminated from competition. Testers will be directed to collect their samples as soon as an equine has received its completion exam and before it leaves the veterinary area.  Equines standing for Best Condition will be tested at the conclusion of their completion exam, even if it is before their Best Condition presentation.

The AERC will rely upon and adopt the testing procedures of the Equine Medication Monitoring Program in AERC sanctioned endurance rides taking place in California. The AERC will rely upon and adopt the testing procedures of Equine Canada in AERC sanctioned endurance rides that are sanctioned by Equine Canada. The AERC rider drug testing fees will be waived for those rides held in California and those rides sanctioned by Equine Canada. The AERC will charge a rider drug testing fee for rides held in Canada that are not sanctioned by Equine Canada, and those rides will be considered for drug testing by the AERC.

The procedures for reviewing positive tests by the independent laboratory and filing protests are described in Rule 13 and the procedures for handling protests are described in Rule 14. Additionally, when the AERC Executive Director transmits any laboratory report to the Veterinary Committee and the Legal Committee for their initial review under Rule 13, the Executive Director shall not include the name of the horse tested or its rider. Also, once a protest has been filed, the Drug Testing Subcommittee shall mail a letter to the protested party following the filing of a protest for violation of Rule 13 that shall give notice to the protested party of the right to a confirmatory analysis of the “B” sample at that party’s cost.

In order to keep the AERC membership informed of the AERC’s ongoing testing program to enforce Rule 13, all testing results for prohibited substances, whether negative or positive, shall be published in Endurance News without identification of the equines tested or their riders. This publication of test results is in addition to the required publication of protest decisions under Rule 14.

According to Dr. Duane Barnett of AERC’s Drug Testing Subcommittee, the AERC drug rule is actually “a system of principles and values: morals, character and behavior.”


As he noted at the organization’s 2009 convention, AERC’s philosophy is not only concerned with performance-enhancing drugs, but to ensure adequate rest time and to safeguard that medication and therapies that can mask lameness are not allowed. Also not allowed are medications that can cover or mask horse illness. “I have strong words for those who bring sick horses to rides,” said Dr. Barnett.


That philosophy also goes for horses with ulcers, according to Dr. Barnett. “Leave those horses at home until they are better,” he said. “Change your feeding, your competition and training schedule, so he can compete without ulcer medications.


“Some people are always looking for a shortcut, an edge,” said Dr. Barnett. “They don’t care how they beat you. Drug testing is roulette. There is no way the labs can test for all substances out there.” Thus, he said, “Everybody in this organization is responsible for the welfare of the horse.”


Under AERC’s previous drug rule, the presence of any drug was a violation. “Today’s technology is so advanced that minute particles can be detected,” said Dr. Barnett. He cited a Louisiana State University study where dirt, dust and runoff water at a racetrack was collected and found to contain trace amounts of banamine, bute, caffeine and nicotine.


Turning to withdrawal times, Dr. Barnett explained that there are published withdrawal times only for the most common substances. “They are a suggestion only,” he noted. He noted that bute levels in horses post-dosing vary widely even though dosage was appropriate for each horse. “A half-dose of bute given after competition,” Dr. Barnett warned, “may stay longer in the system because the horse is dehydrated.”


Of neutraceuticals, Dr. Barnett noted that these products which are used to “obtain some type of cause or effect,” so they are drugs — “make no doubt about it.”


Some supplements are allowed under AERC regulations, including glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid. AERC’s rule 13, appendix C (Allowed Substances) notes they are “not to be administered by needle/syringe while competing in an endurance ride.


The problem arises when these legal supplements contain other things. Substances such as yucca, MSM, etc., are going to be considered illegal during competition by AERC’s current drug rule.


The Food and Drug Administration requires no pre-market approval if the supplement or herb manufacturer doesn’t claim to treat or cure. “They don’t have to prove safety or efficacy. There is no quality guarantee or batch-to-batch consistency,” said Dr. Barnett. “It is buyer beware”, he added.


In recent years, one rider who gave her horse what was marketed as an “all natural, calming effect” neutraceutical was surprised by a positive drug test. The batch was found to be contaminated and actually contained 11% caffeine.


“You must know exactly what you are giving your horse,” said Dr. Barnett. “Educate yourself. Call the company. Work with vets who work with performance products.


But don’t ask what the withdrawal times are for any of these substances. First you have to know how much you are feeding and that requires knowing actually what is in the product (see above). A suggested withdrawal time is 96 hours.


“During training and after competition, I use MSM,” said Dr. Barnett. “but not anywhere close to a ride.” Most substances will clear in 96 hours, he noted — but not always.


Dr. Barnett also spoke about possible reactions to neutraceuticals. “Ginseng and echinacea can increase liver enzymes,” he said, “causing bute to metabolize in the liver. And flaxseed prolongs absorption of medications and withdrawal times can be much longer.”


Most of all, ask yourself why you are feeding the product. For what purpose are you feeding it? If you are trying to obtain an effect such as behavior modification or an anti-inflammatory then the product is illegal during competition. (One note: Probiotics are OK to use during competition.)


Of topical products, Dr. Barnett emphasized that they “must contain no prohibited substance even if the effect is local. He mentioned that three horses tested positive for capsaicin at the 2008 Olympics. “They guessed wrong,” he said, “and thought a test didn’t exist or the drug wouldn’t be absorbed into the body.”


AERC’s drug rule will continue to evolve, Dr. Barnett promised. “The drug rule is not designed to be an obstacle, but to look out for the long-term welfare of the horse.”

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