Cornell says equine drug lab not moving, yet


The rumored move of the equine drug-testing laboratory from Cornell to another college is not yet a done deal.

Ithaca, N.Y.

-- The rumored move of the equine drug-testing laboratory from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine to another state college is becoming closer to reality but is not yet a done deal.

Rumors of the relocation have been spurred by Cornell's repeated requests to the New York State Racing and Wagering Board for more money to update the aging laboratory at Cornell, which estimated a new lab would cost about $9 million.

But given the money woes experienced recently in nearly every state, including New York, it seems the racing board may be looking at other options.

Morrisville State College, about 70 miles from Cornell, has made offers to the racing board, and it seems the board is warming up the idea of change.

"We think this is an exciting proposal," says Joe Mahoney, a racing board spokesperson. "The board chair is happy that Morrisville's president is eager to have his campus partner with the racing and wagering board on its equine drug-testing program."

However, a simple move of facilities is not in the cards in this situation, says Stephanie Specchio, a spokesperson for Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine. A state law mandates that the board's equine drug-testing must be conducted by "a land-grant university in the state with a regents-approved veterinary college facility."

Since Cornell is the only veterinary college in New York, it appears that the veterinary college is stuck unless the law is changed.

The college has "significant concerns" about its equine drug-testing lab and has told the state something needs to be done at the facility for the school to operate the program at the state's expectations. The number of tests being conducted have risen, as well as the costs to run those tests, Specchio says.

Cornell hasn't received any official word from the state about a move, but Specchio says the silence doesn't mean that something is not in the planning stages. If a move does occur, Specchio says Cornell would do everything it can to be cooperative with whoever takes over the program.

"Cornell is committed to supporting the horse-racing industry in whatever way the state deems appropriate," Specchio says.

In the meantime, a change may be inching closer, as the state is clearing the way for a move to be possible. New York lawmakers now are drafting a bill that might change the program's land-grant requirement, says Mahoney. The location of the laboratory, should that law pass, is premature to discuss, he says, adding that multiple testing locations may be considered.

Morrisville officials did not return phone calls by press time.

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