Effective November 17, 2023, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is reinstating breathalyzer testing for horseracing participants in Safety Sensitive Positions, including drivers, jockeys, valets, and track maintenance personnel to ensure continued safety.
When the Ontario government lifted the COVID-19 provincial emergency order in February 2021 allowing horse racing to resume, the AGCO temporarily amended several rules to accommodate the safe return to racing and ease industry burden, while ensuring welfare for equine and human athletes and other racing participants.
Since then, the AGCO has been actively monitoring the impact of these temporary changes and determined that, with the public health restrictions lifted, breath analysis rules can now be safely reinstated and breath alcohol testing will resume. The breathalyzer test remains the most effective tool for determining alcohol impairment, which is a significant risk to health and safety of human and equine athletes.
The temporary rule limiting the timeframe that drivers are required to report to the paddock is also being withdrawn. Given that social gathering restrictions are no longer in effect, participants will once again be required to arrive one hour before a race, allowing for more assessment time with the reinstatement of the breathalyzer requirement.
The below rules of racing will be reinstated effective November 17, 2023.
Standardbred Rules of Racing
Safety Sensitive Positions
The following rule in Chapter 36: Alcohol and Drug Violations - Human of the Standardbred Rules of Racing is being reinstated:
36.01 A licensee in a Safety Sensitive Position is prohibited from […]: (d) Performing activities of the Safety Sensitive Position at a licensed facility while having a BAC of .02 or higher.
Maintaining Social Distancing in the Paddock
The following rules in Chapter 25: Drivers of the Standardbred Rules of Racing are being reinstated:
25.03 Drivers must report to the paddock judge at least one hour before post time of any race in which they are programmed to drive, unless excused by the Judges.
Thoroughbred Rules of Racing
The following rule in Chapter 15: Misconduct, Needles, Syringes and Searches of the Thoroughbred Rules of Racing is being reinstated:
The following Industry Notices have been updated to reflect the reinstated rules. As a reminder, the other temporary amendments are still in effect until otherwise specified:
- (rescinded) Industry Notice (Horse Racing): AGCO is temporarily halting breathalyzer testing due to COVID-19
- (updated) Industry Notice: Return to Racing, Temporary Rule Amendments
- (updated) Industry Notice - Return to Racing: Additional Temporary Amendments to the Rules of Racing
Human Alcohol and Drug Program
Any licensee and any Designated Racing Official engaged in the business of racing at a licensed facility, whether or not he or she is in a Safety Sensitive Position, is required to know their obligations under the Standardbred Rules of Racing, Chapter 36 and Thoroughbred Rules of Racing Chapter 38, Alcohol and Drug Violations – Human.
If the AGCO has reasonable grounds to believe that a licensee’s or Designated Racing Official’s physical and cognitive abilities are impaired as per Standardbred Rule 36.05 and Thoroughbred Rule 38.05, the individual will be required to submit to the testing. The AGCO has the authority to conduct unannounced drug testing on all licensees in Safety Sensitive Positions for the presence of illegal drugs, prohibited substances and impairing prescription medication.
For more information, please refer to the AGCO Testing Programs.