USTA Says No to Model Rules, Leaves RMTC

USTA Says No to Model Rules, Leaves RMTC

The USTA said it supports uniform medication policies but believes they should be customized by breed.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

The United States Trotting Association (USTA), citing differences in breeds, said Sept. 26 it has ended its membership in the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) and rejected the proposed national model rules on uniform medication standards.

The USTA Executive Committee said it voted unanimously to leave the RMTC and reject the model rules pushed by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI). The organization said it has contributed more than $1 million to the RMTC the past 10 years.

The USTA, based in Columbus, Ohio, in a release said it will ask RCI to maintain the current medication policies in effect for Standardbred racing.

RMTC chairman Alex Waldrop, president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

"We have carefully considered the RCI proposals and have come to the conclusion that the physical characteristics of the breeds are significantly different," USTA president Phil Langley said in the release. "Trying to fit them together makes little sense. We believe both breeds, Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds, will benefit from having rules concentrated solely on their needs.

"Many safeguards now in use in harness racing would never be acceptable to the more high-strung Thoroughbreds, including Lasix barns, two- to four-hour paddock times, and racing on a weekly basis. On the other hand, both the frequency that Standardbreds race and the lack of catastrophic breakdowns in harness racing make the utilization of some therapeutic medications much different between the breeds.

"After studying these proposed rule changes, it is apparent to us that they are entirely focused on the needs of Thoroughbreds with little consideration for Standardbreds."

Several states, including most in the Mid-Atlantic region, have adopted or said they will adopt the uniform model rules on medication. They are standard for all breeds of racehorses; it remains to be seen how the USTA action will affect those states.

Industry sources said the issue came up at the most recent RMTC board meeting in September. They said one concern expressed by the Standarbred industry was the longer withdrawal time for the broncholilator clenbuterol, which apparently is administered for therapeutic reasons a day or two after a Standardbred races; with a week or even two between races, it's problematic.

The USTA said it supports uniform medication policies but believes they should be customized by breed.

"We want to make it very clear the USTA supports uniform rules, but we strongly believe they should be by breed," said Langley, who noted blood-doping, out-of-competition testing, and shock-wave therapy "are high on the list of USTA research projects."

Langley said the USTA believes the industry's funds "can be better spent on research and testing in areas more concentrated on harness racing."

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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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