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March 27,2001.


Attention: AHRC Executive

  • Mr AJ McGrath – President
  • Mr G Papadopoulos – Senior Vice President
  • Mr J Beder – Vice President
  • Mr K Bengston – Treasurer


Attached is the Review Sub-Committee’s Report on the evaluation of the existing information available to Council on TC02 in racing Standardbreds.  The Sub-Committee has reviewed a significant range of existing information from Industry Participants and Administrators together with submissions from professional Veterinarian Service providers and Academics with an interest in this area. Relevant overseas harness racing administrations also contributed.

The Review Sub-Committee was unable to meet Council’s original timeframe. The pre-race TC02 data, which was critical to the Review, was not available in a form for use by the independent biometrical service at the University of Sydney. The considerable task of massaging the data into a usable format involved the entire staff of Council.   Approximately 60,000 records were collected, compiled and entered into Council’s computers.

The first Term of Reference is the "Level of Laboratory uncertainty factor in the testing process". The Review Sub-Committee recommends that there should be one national level for laboratory uncertainty.  The laboratory uncertainty of measurement should be reassessed as part of an Industry Commercial Agreement between Council and the Racing Forensic Laboratories. Further observations and recommendations have been provided throughout the report referring to the Racing Forensic Laboratories and Harness Racing’s interaction with them.

The second Term of Reference refers to the integrity of the testing process. Any variation must be eliminated to achieve the best practice possible. The Review Sub-Committee has identified a number of areas where a lack of consistency may occur. A number of recommendations have been made throughout the report to ensure that the activities of racetrack sampling, collection, storage and transport of samples under the control of State Controlling Bodies are considered. Other areas pertaining to the protocols used by the laboratories are also included as a result of the Review’s evaluation. In looking at the existing material provided it is considered important that both standardisation and consistency are paramount to the integrity of the process. Clear unequivocal guidelines with mandated completion times under contractual agreements between all parties should be further developed. Lack of adherence in any area in future implementation can be effectively monitored and managed. A suitable mechanism should be established to ensure that the State Controlling Body areas are nationally uniform and consistent in their interface between our industry and the laboratories so that the best practice is in place, managed and reviewed periodically.

The third Term of Reference pertains to the mean TC02 level of the harness racing population. The Biometrical Consulting Service’s study of the existing data identifies that the data is not normally distributed. The biometricians’ report identified areas of inconsistency in pre race data from several States. These inconsistencies are identified and discussed in Dr John Vine’s Report on the "Measurement of TC02 in Australia". The biometricians’ report identified the last 2 years test data, where the ASE Standards were used as consistent data for analysis. The biometricians’ report suggests that statistically there is a distinct possibility that a tested sample may exceed the threshold level of 35mmol/L based on population analysis.

The fourth Term of Reference relates to the "mean TC02 level of the untreated harness racing population". A number of studies using stabled Standardbreds were identified – Rose and Lloyd (1991), Auer (1993), the recent New Zealand Study (2000). It is questioned whether these studies truly represent the TC02 distribution in Australian racing Standardbreds. There is a need for substantial research into this area in view of today’s technology.

The fifth Term of Reference considered whether the mean level of TC02 has increased and why. The Review Sub-Committee considers that this question is addressed and explained in the body of the Report as part of the total consideration of this issue.

As Chairperson I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary dedication and input of the Review’s Executive Officer Rod Pollock and the entire staff of Council into this Review. The professional conduct of the Review process, under sometimes difficult circumstances, is attributable to their outstanding assistance.

The Review Sub-Committee’s Report is referred for your consideration.

Dr. D. Ryan
TC02 Review Sub-Committee


  1. There is no "Gold" or Reference Standard for TC02. Some laboratory variation has occurred in the past, and, despite improvements in quality control and standardisation, some variation must be expected in the future. Any threshold must include a wide safety margin in recognition of this fact. The threshold must be derived in a scientifically acceptable manner.
  2. A single pre-race plasma TC02 determination is not reliable proof of "administration". While it has been shown that administration will produce elevated TC02 levels it has been shown that high levels can exist for other reasons.
  3. For any threshold set there is a statistical risk of an "innocent overage". Under current conditions this may be as common as 18 to 28 tests in every 1000.
  4. Emphasis should be directed to the development of tests and protocols that prove "administration". This may include post-race blood and urine testing, and novel analytical approaches.
  5. Any policy guidelines should clearly define collection and test methodologies, and the development of a Certified Reference Standard should receive high priority.
  6. All participating laboratories should be considered as one "instrument" and a common uncertainty measurement factor determined. It is imperative that uncertainty measurement recognises the increased uncertainty likely when testing plasma control samples.
  7. Variation in reported results is a combination of many factors, other than malicious bicarbonate loading. These may include:
    • Variation in laboratory procedures and standards
    • Collection and storage
    • Horse factors:
              Training methods
              Time of day
              Climate and ambient temperature
              Pre race water deprivation
              Geographical area
              Pre race transport and excitement

    The effect of many of these variables is unknown and has not been adequately examined. Further work should be performed to evaluate these variables.

8.     The effect of long term low dose use of alkaline salts is unknown.

Release Date:  10 April 2001

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