RMTC Extends Suspension of UK Lab's Accreditation Another Six Months

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The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) has extended for another six months its accreditation suspension of the University of Kentucky's Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory.

The RMTC initially suspended its accreditation of the laboratory back in March, following news that the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU) had stopped sending samples to the lab due to “concerns with the performance” of the facility.

Prior to that, the laboratory had been one of six drug testing facilities used under the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act's (HISA) drug testing program.

According to the RMTC's executive director, Michael Hardy, the UK Lab requested an extension to its initial 60-day suspension period on May 7.

“The RMTC acknowledges the good faith efforts and level of cooperation from the laboratory during the originally prescribed 60-day period and has authorized an extension up to, but not to exceed six months to afford additional time for the laboratory to achieve full compliance with the Code of Standards,” Hardy wrote.

A UK spokesperson confirmed the suspension extension, adding that the university believes the “timeframe will be sufficient” for the lab to achieve full compliance with the RMTC's code of standards.

If the laboratory failed to make the necessary fixes in time and the RMTC had denied the extension request, the organization could have moved to fully revoke its accreditation of the facility.

“If that were to [happen], we would have to start very much from scratch and that can be a very laborious and time-consuming process. So, we really want to try as best we can to maintain accreditation so that we can focus on moving forward,” acting lab director, Cynthia Cole, recently told the TDN.

The RMTC's extension marks the latest development in a twisting story that has played out with limited public explanations.

After halting the flow of samples to the UK Laboratory, HIWU and HISA announced they had opened an investigation into the facility's performance, alongside the university's own investigation into the matter.

In the same statement, the agencies announced that the university was conducting “an ongoing personnel investigation” relating to Scott Stanley, the former UK Lab director, and that “Dr. Stanley was not permitted to be in direct communication with the other staff at the laboratory.”

Stanley told the TDN that he had stepped down as the UK Lab's director at the beginning of March and has been reassigned within the university.

When initially asked why the RMTC had suspended its accreditation, Hardy pointed to a code of standards which lists 10 possible considerations that might prompt the organization to take such an action.

RMTC accreditation is a necessity if a laboratory is to be among HIWU's stable of drug testing facilities.

Toward the end of March, the university announced that it had hired Cole to be interim lab director. Cole previously served as an associate clinical professor and director of The Racing Laboratory at the University of Florida from 2002-2006, then again from 2018-2023 when the laboratory closed.

In a Q&A with the TDN, Cole shared how the U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) had also stopped sending samples to UK Lab due to similar concerns that HISA had with the lab, along with issues of turnaround times not being met.

Cole also said that “it's possible” the recent developments at the UK Lab could call into question the legitimacy of any HISA/HIWU-related samples previously processed through the facility.

Cole, however, voiced optimism that the issues with the laboratory would be rectified in time to avoid full revocation of the RMTC's accreditation.

“I am an optimist, so I'm going to say we will be able to achieve this. I think we've made tremendous advances in already meeting some of their requests and their concerns,” said Cole, in the Q&A.

“Some of them are simply a little bit more time consuming. So, I believe with an extension we can address almost all of their [RMTC's] concerns.”

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