HIWU Catches Trainers Up On Environmental Contamination, Electrolytes, And Test Barn Policy - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

HIWU Catches Trainers Up On Environmental Contamination, Electrolytes, And Test Barn Policy

On Sept. 7, officials from the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) together with the Horseracing Integrity & Welfare Unit (HIWU) held the first in a series of videoconferences aimed at answering horsemen's questions about the new national regulations.

Although billed as a town hall, the presentation involved officials fielding questions about anti-doping and medication control that had been submitted to the organizations in advance.

Here are a few takeaways from this week's presentation:

-HIWU officials reiterated the organization's policy on atypical findings, which form a different category of drug testing results than what fans and trainers have encountered in horse racing before.

Violations of medication policy detected in blood or urine samples are most commonly called adverse analytical findings and signify that an overage of a controlled medication or presence of a doping agent have been found.

However, HISA models its medication and testing policies after the Federation Equestre International (FEI) which governs a wide range of non-racing equestrian sports worldwide. The FEI has a category of sample results called atypical findings, and that has been adopted into the racing sphere now. Atypical findings are prohibited substances that may come from plants that are commonly grazed or harvested to make feed or bedding. Previously, these would have been referred to as environmental contamination but would have gone through the same arbitration process as an overage of Bute, for example.

If HIWU gets an atypical finding in a test, it launches an investigation into the potential sources of the substance and may itself request analysis of the split sample. It notifies the responsible person and asks them to provide information about how the horse may have come into contact with the substance through hay, feed, or bedding. From there, HIWU issues a decision about the finding based on whether it has discovered compelling evidence for the source of the substance. If they can determine where the substance originated, they'll deem it a negative finding and drop the case; if they have reason to suspect the horse's contact with the substance wasn't through plant material, they could consider it either a positive for a banned or a controlled medication.

A list of medications that may trigger atypical findings (and their violation category if they are not determined to come from environmental contamination) is available here.

The results of atypical findings are not made public the way adverse analytical findings are, so we don't know what substances have been discovered and determined to be environmental contamination. HIWU said there have been somewhere between 15 and 20 of these cases since they began drug testing in May.

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Human medications (legal and illicit) will not be considered environmental contamination under the definition of atypical findings, because that exposure doesn't come from feed or bedding that the trainer has limited control over. A horse's exposure to a human medication is viewed as something that can be avoided with proper controls in the barn. That means the mounting list of metformin positives that are on the public disclosure section of HIWU's website are not considered environmental contamination and are not classified as atypical findings.

-Horsemen asked for clarification on electrolyte administration policies. Dr. Mary Scollay, chief of science for HIWU, gave the following guidelines:

Oral administrations, including pastes, use of a drench, or top-dressed electrolytes on feed, may be given up to 24 hours before post. Intravenous administrations of electrolytes may also be given up to 24 hours.

Nasogastric administrations of electrolytes may not be given closer than 48 hours pre-race.

Salt blocks and mineral blocks in stalls are fine to use at any time, as are electrolyte solutions that are placed in water buckets.


-Test barn policies have been a source of confusion and tension among trainers who worry the policies have changed from the state system or aren't being adhered to fully.

Gloves are required for test collectors taking a urine sample for a horse. They are not required for veterinarians pulling blood for a test. Gloves can make it more difficult for the vet to handle the collection equipment, but there's also less concern of contamination from the sample collector and blood, according to HIWU chief of operations Kate Mittelstadt. The blood collection is a closed system, with the needle for the vial going straight in and not coming into contact with human hands.

Horses are supposed to be assigned their own bucket to drink from in the test barn, and those buckets are to be thoroughly disinfected between horses, according to Mittelstadt.

If a horseman witnesses practices inconsistent with this policy, Mittelstadt said they have a few options. Ideally, it's best if they flag their concerns to someone in the moment. They can notify the sample collection personnel on site, and the sample collectors are given a number they can call at HIWU to clear up any confusion. That call-in number is supposed to be staffed any time a test barn would be in operation for post-race sample collection. There is also a supplementary report form that either the horsemen's representative or the test barn employees can fill out to accompany the sample to report anything they think could be relevant in the testing process, including concerns about contamination. Alternately, the horseman can call HIWU and request an investigation.

Test barn personnel have all been trained by HIWU but for the most part are either still employed or contracted by the same employer they had before the switch, whether that's the track or the commission.


-The target timeframe for test sample returns is five business days for post-workout or vet's list workout samples. Post-race samples may take ten business days. Split samples are to take no more than 15 days.

These timeframes haven't always been adhered to, but Mittelstadt said the organization is making “significant improvements” on making sure labs stick to those timeframes.

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