RETIRED champion trainer and former Trinidad and Tobago Racing Authority (TTRA) chairman Joe Hadeed is adamant and has taken a firm position in his view that there are no permissible threshold levels as regards drug-testing in local horse racing.
Hadeed issued a letter to the press yesterday in light of the ongoing controversial issue permeating the racing community over the past few weeks, arising out of the result of the post-race sample of Boogie Blues, who won the Gold Cup on December 26 at Santa Rosa Park, Arima.
Boogie Blues is owned by current TTRA chairman Derek Chin.
In his letter, Hadeed adopts a strong stance regarding the adherence to the Rules of Racing (Trinidad & Tobago). He explains why he believes it necessary for him to clarify what he contends are certain inaccurate views being expressed, as regards the existing rules of drug-testing protocols.
Hadeed is taking issue with Chin's contention--in a letter to the Guardian last weekend--that the usage of "zero tolerance" within the local racing industry is misunderstood, and his (Chin's) argument that the term does not mean "zero" per se but instead one of a minimum level determined by the testing facility by which they (testing facility) are willing to accept the presence of any substance in the sample without it being considered to be a "positive".
According to Chin's interpretation, it is a "zero tolerant level and not a zero level". And he further states that the "Rules of Racing amended 2000 defines a positive quite clearly and uses the threshold level established by the lab/TTRA to determine whether a sample is positive or negative".
Following is the complete content of Hadeed's letter:
There have been several misleading statements in the press in recent times with respect to the collection and testing of urine and blood samples in local racing, which put several concerns over the integrity and function of the Trinidad and Tobago Racing Authority.
After being the chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Racing Authority for eight years until November 2010, I think it is my duty to bring the facts of the collection and testing procedures of samples and the TTRA relationship with its testing laboratories.
Rule 64 A of the TTRA's rules clearly states, "the official winning horse or any other horse ordered by the Authority and or the Stewards shall be taken to the test barn to have a urine and or blood sample taken at the direction of the official Veterinarian."
The horse's urine is collected by an attendant employed with the TTRA in the presence of the Groom of the horse. The sample is then escorted by the Groom and the Attendant to the Veterinary office at the testing barn. If blood is to be drawn from the horse this is done by the Attending Industry Vet, in the presence of the Groom. The urine sample is then split into two separate containers by the Industry's Vet in the presence of the Groom. These containers are wax sealed and a bar code number attached to each.
The Groom and the Trainer of the horse signs, verifying that the number placed on the samples were in fact collected from his horse. The Groom and Trainer are given a copy of this number and a copy is kept by the TTRA, which is placed in a register identifying the name of the horse corresponding with the sample number.
All samples are kept under the supervision of the Industry's Vet until the end of the day's racing when the courier arrives to ship the primary sample to the lab. This is done on the same raceday. It is important to note that the lab received a sample with a number and does not know the name, the owner or the trainer from which that sample was taken. The second sample, which is known as the split sample, is secured in a freezer in the Secretary's office with two keys, one kept by the Industry's Vet and the other by the Secretary of the TTRA.
When the lab receives the samples, the Racing Authority is notified of the time and date received, and that samples have arrived in good order with the seal intact. The lab is familiar with the TTRA rule which is that there are no threshold levels and that the TTRA race under a zero tolerance system.
There has been a lot of mis-information with regards to the interpretation of zero tolerance. Zero tolerance is clearly defined in the English dictionary. Zero means nothing--none whatsoever--and Tolerance means tolerate, that is to say we do not tolerate the presence of any amount of a prohibited substance as long as they can be identified. Which means any sample with a prohibited substance that can be identified is deemed positive.
The rules of the TTRA do not provide for the acceptance of any level of a prohibited substance once this substance is identified. This argument has been tested in our courts and the judgement clearly ruled in favour of the TTRA. The TTRA has also had trainers requesting levels of prohibited substances discovered in their horses' samples by their attorneys and the Board of the TTRA on advice of its attorneys has always declined these requests as it is not relevant to any of the TTRA rules.
When the Secretary of the TTRA receives notification from the lab that they have identified a prohibited substance in any sample collected, the Secretary immediately notifies the owner/trainer in writing, sending him a copy of the written report from the lab. The Secretary then notifies the Chairman and all Board Members and the Arima Race Club, again with copies of the report from the lab. This eliminates any interference by the Secretary as ten people are aware of the results immediately.
After the owner/trainer is notified in writing, he has 48 hours in which to request the testing of the split sample at a choice of one of the selected labs which the Authority has arrangements with for so doing. This sample is packed and sent by courier in the presence of the trainer or owner. It is also important to note that the secondary lab is notified of the name of the prohibited substance detected in the primary sample and they are to test only to determine that the prohibited substance in the split sample is present. This is normal as the testing of the split sample is only confirmatory.
There has also been a lot of misinformation about suspicious samples. Samples being suspicious is a process of the testing procedure of the lab and has no right to be entertained by the TTRA, as it is not a result and means nothing to the TTRA. The TTRA is only interested in one result from the lab, that is to say that a sample is either negative or positive.
It is obvious that no reputable lab that has detected a negative sample would change that to a positive by any instructions from any of their clients. These labs test samples on a daily basis for clients worldwide and would certainly not compromise their reputation.
The rules of racing can only be changed by a decision of the full (TTRA) Board, which shall come into operation upon publication in the gazette. If the position is now that the TTRA has moved to the acceptance of threshold levels in prohibited substances this can only have been achieved legally by the decision of the full Board, which decision becomes law of it being gazetted.