Victorian racing drug testing lab gets Australia’s first swab drop-off service

Victoria’s racing integrity will be further enhanced with Australia’s first 24-hour non-contact drug test drop-off service in Flemington.

The automated, secure and refrigerated sample drop-off laboratory, jointly funded by Racing Analytic Services Ltd and the state government, is expected to be operational from March.

The $400,000 project, when completed, will allow doping test managers from all three codes – Thoroughbreds, Harnesses and Greyhounds – to drop off samples securely around the clock.

RASL – Australia’s largest independent drug testing lab – processes around 1,000 swabs a week from the racing industry, returning an average rate of 0.3 positives across all three codes.

Clients include racing jurisdictions in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Macau and “three racing clubs” in Chile.

Lab director David Batty said the benefits of the 24-hour service ranged from day-to-day convenience and efficiency to pursuing cases involving banned substances.

The “keeping of control”, the collection, transport, storage and processing of samples, are at the heart of standing integrity issues.

“Essentially this conveyor system doesn’t necessarily help us that much, it’s more for (the integrity of the race) and that’s a good thing to do,” Batty said.

“Surveyors returning from a racetrack can come here at any time and drop them (samples) on us officially, very quickly…it adds to the security of the systems.”

The housing laboratory will be operational from March. Photo: Michael Klein

The system currently in place allows Victorian officials to securely store samples from nightly meetings at the respective headquarters overnight and then deposit the swabs with RASL during normal office hours.

RASL has approximately $17 million worth of equipment for drug testing of equine, canine and human samples.

He developed a $3 million spectrometry lab, the first of its kind in the world, during the pandemic.

The lab is screening samples “for thousands of drugs,” including “next-level” testing for peptides, bioengineered drugs, “we can look for snake venom and all kinds of things, all labs can’t do it.”

Racing Minister Anthony Carbines said the investment will help ensure the highest level of integrity is maintained in Victorian racing.

“We are proud of our reputation as the birthplace of racing in Australia and this project will improve fairness and support animal welfare,” said Carbines.

The racing industry in Victoria generates $4.7 billion for the economy and supports approximately 35,000 jobs statewide.

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