Other fit-for-duty assessments that do not require the collection of a biological sample will also be continued
As an update to the March 2020 Industry Notice on the use of the breathalyzer, the AGCO has developed an interim measure to incorporate another tool to maintain the Human Alcohol and Drug Program to ensure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On race days, racetrack or AGCO staff normally administer breathalyzer tests to measure blood alcohol levels in certain horseracing participants in “safety sensitive” positions, including drivers, jockeys, valets, and track maintenance personnel. However, the collection of a breath samples creates a potential risk for COVID-19 transmission . In March 2020, that practice was halted temporarily, but the AGCO committed to monitor the situation and the procedures and tools used in similar programs.
As a result, effective today, the AGCO will incorporate the use of alcohol test strips to determine the presence of alcohol in licensees in safety sensitive positions. A positive test, using this tool, will result in the same penalties used for a positive test using a breathalyzer. Licensees are expected to follow the instruction of those charged with implementing the program or be penalized for failure to test including immediate suspension. AGCO officials will also continue fit-for-duty assessments that do not require the collection of a biological sample.
Required horseracing participants must still report to the Paddock Judges or Clerk of the Scales. They will be assessed using questions and observations for signs of impairment.. Anyone showing potential signs of impairment will be referred to the Race Officials. In addition, the AGCO Race Officials will randomly select racing participants to attend as instructed for an alcohol test using the alcohol testing strips. The Race Officials have the ultimate authority to allow or deny the individual’s participation.
The AGCO is actively reviewing Ontario’s horse racing rules and regulations to ensure responsible measures are taken to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and will continue to monitor the situation to determine how long this tool will be in use. The regulator is also consulting with public health officials, as well as other racing jurisdictions, to determine if any additional actions are warranted.