Groups Step Up Call for Model Racehorse Drug Rules

Groups Step Up Call for Model Racehorse Drug Rules

Racing industry organizations have stepped up their call for swift adoption of national model rules on medication and drug testing in the wake of investigations into allegations of mistreatment and over-medication of Thoroughbred racehorses.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Racing industry organizations have stepped up their call for swift adoption of national model rules on medication and drug testing in the wake of investigations into allegations of mistreatment and over-medication of Thoroughbred racehorses.

Trainer Steve Asmussen and assistant trainer Scott Blasi were the subjects of a 2013 undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which alleges over-medication and mistreatment. Documentation of the allegations, as well as video, were turned over to regulators in Kentucky and New York.

Much of the undercover probe revealed the presence of legal therapeutic medication used in training or administered within a certain number of days before a race. The practice isn't uncommon, but the model rules devised by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) and Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) are designed to greatly reduce such drug regimens and create a treat-when-necessary environment.

"(The Thoroughbred Racing Association's, or TRA) members in 2012 voted unanimously to advocate the Uniform Medication and Penalty Model Rules, developed by the RMTC and RCI," the racetrack trade group said March 21. "By the end of 2013 those policies had been adopted by many of the leading racing states, and efforts continue to ensure unanimous adoption in the current year.

"The TRA urges all racing commissions to press for the immediate adoption of the model rules for the benefit of the sport, the racing public, and especially the racehorses in competition."

The TRA also commented on the allegations of mistreatment and rule violations, suggesting "swift and severe penalties" if proven true.

The Jockeys' Guild weighed in, as well, on the subject of ensuring safety for riders through uniform drug rules and harsher penalties.

"Over the last several years the guild has worked with state racing commissions, RCI, RMTC, The Jockey Club, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance advocating for severe penalties for medication violations and supports tightening race-day medication rules," Jockeys' Guild national manager Terry Meyocks said. "Once the due process is completed, if any individual is found guilty of abuse, neglect or any other rule violation, they will suffer the consequences."

All but a handful of jurisdictions have banned race-day medication with the exception of the anti-bleeding drug furosemide (also known as Salix or Lasix), and many have mandated or will mandate administration of the substance by regulatory veterinarians. The practice already has been said to have reduced the presence of other therapeutic drugs in blood and urine samples taken from horses.

The RMTC has acknowledged beneficial use of many therapeutic substances, though its mission has been to greatly curtail their use close to race day.

Jockey Club president and chief operating officer Jim Gagliano noted the model rules process has been ongoing three years.

"Therapeutic (medications) are overwhelmingly the leading subject of regulatory rulings," Gagliano said on Twitter March 20. "Pain (medications) are the vast majority of these violations. Overuse of therapeutic medications is among the myriad issues addressed and deterred by National Uniform Medication Program."

PETA took the opportunity to again call for a ban on race-day furosemide. The group also is pushing for federal oversight of horse racing.

Originally published on BloodHorse.com.

About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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