Discussion in the Veterinary Committee meeting during the U.S. Equestrian Federation Annual Meeting, now underway in Lexington, Kentucky, centered around the breaking news of the voiding of Larry Glefke and Kelley Farmer’s GABA suspensions.
Questions were raised about what kind of laboratory error resulted in voiding of the suspensions, and what’s going to be done in the future to prevent such errors.
Though the organization’s officials would not explain the exact error made, USEF general counsel Sonja Keating stated that the mistake in Glefke and Farmer’s case was an isolated incident, not a pattern of errors.
“What occurred in this particular matter is not related to any previous cases. There was a B sample tested by the USEF laboratory in this case, and we have somebody who made a big mistake. There were errors in handling the sample. We didn’t learn about the mistake until late,” Keating said.
“We didn’t know about it at the time of [Glefke and Farmer’s initial] hearing. I would not question any of the other GABA cases. They’re not comparable. We can assure you this will not happen again. There were errors, and we had to do the right thing,” Keating continued.
USEF President Murray Kessler noted that when a USEF member receives notice of a positive result from the A sample, the member has the option to request that the B sample is tested in the USEF laboratory or at an alternative lab. Glefke and Farmer chose to have the USEF lab test the B sample in their GABA case.
“It was the preparation of the B sample,” said Kessler. “After it had been stored, the mistake happened. It wasn’t bad machinery. It was a handling mistake.
“While we’ll continue to allow people to have their B samples be tested, USEF, effective immediately, won’t be the one doing that testing,” Kessler said. “[USEF] rarely tests B samples. The main reason we’ve rarely tested is consumer demand. When people are going back for a second opinion, they’d rather it came from another lab. It’s different. It’s a frozen sample versus a fresh sample. I’m not saying we won’t do it again in the future. But to reassure our membership right now until I’ve completed these audits, and I’m comfortable, we’re going to send these samples to outside labs. It’s a way to reassure the membership that this can’t happen to you.”
Bill Moroney, the USEF CEO, assured attendees at the meeting that the USEF is taking steps to prevent a repeat of the mistake.
“The first thing that’s happening is a comprehensive audit of the processes that go on in the lab and what happens with those samples to make sure we don’t have problems,” he said. “We have no idea why this mistake occurred, but we’re going to put in place the checks and balances and take whatever corrective measures we need to.
“It’s an independent outside person coming in to audit these processes,” Moroney continued. “We also need to make sure there is consistent mandatory training for all testing vets, that they clearly have the requirements that the federation mandates and they follow the requirements. We’re learning as quickly as everybody else about the mistake that occurred in the lab, and we’re putting in the appropriate checks and balances to make sure it does not occur [again]. There will be an independent audit report that will go to the board following the audit. That doesn’t occur in a 24-hour period. It will take time for them to conduct that. In the interim, there will be things put in place to make sure quality control is happening.”
Dr. Kent Allen, the chair of the USEF Veterinary Committee and the USEF Drugs and Medication Committee, defended the USEF testing program.
“We’re not going to throw the baby out with the bath water here. This has been a very effective program,” Allen said. “Apparently a mistake was made. There’s going to be an audit. From the program standpoint it should happen. It should be in detail, and we should come up with a strategic plan going forward and a tactical plan to address any deficiencies.
“We’re all saying the same thing here—we get that it’s a big deal. It’s pretty hard not to be disheartened at this point. You’ve got to pick up and soldier on and figure out what the problem is and fix the problem. The war isn’t going to stop because this skirmish went badly,” Allen added.
Read all the coverage of Kelley Farmer and Larry Glefke’s suspensions in 2017, including each update, statements from them, responses from others and more.