NTRA Awaits Consensus on Medication Issue

Unless horse racing first reaches industry consensus on medication reform, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) does not expect Congress to move forward on federal legislation that would change current, state-level regulatory oversight.

In a Sept. 12 meeting at Keeneland Race Course, in Lexington, Kentucky, NTRA president Alex Waldrop and Greg Means, one of the founders of Alpine Group, which works as a lobbyist for NTRA, updated listeners on horse racing's legislative efforts in Washington, D.C. Waldrop and Means talked about the industry's divide over proposed legislation that would have the United States Anti-Doping Agency regulate reformed medication policies that would prohibit race-day medication.

The Jockey Club has supported such federal legislation but, to this point, its efforts have largely been opposed by horsemen's groups. That opposition is particularly strong when it comes to prohibiting race-day furosemide (Salix, or commonly called Lasix), though 25 prominent trainers this year pledged to support ending race-day medication. Waldrop said there are NTRA members who support medication reform and federal oversight of racing's medication polices, and members who oppose such changes. Without consent, the NTRA will not take a position, and Waldrop noted that, from a strategic standpoint, without industry consensus there is little chance federal legislation will become reality.

"If we're going to do anything federally, we're going to have to be an industry that's of one mind," Waldrop said. "It's always better for the industry to go with one voice and speak with one voice about anything that's being heard in Washington, D.C."

Means noted that when a divided industry comes before Congress, legislators typically avoid taking a side and bills fail to move. He noted that the gambling industry made some progress on federal legislation that would allow Internet poker until Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson opposed that expansion.

Means said legislation aimed at ending the practice of soring in Tennessee Walking Horses appeared well-positioned until factions of breeders of those horses opposed the change.

Waldrop said if the racing industry does reach a consensus on medication, the NTRA will commit to advancing that agenda, whether it be at the state or federal level, or through private means. He encouraged the industry to have the debate and reach a decision rather than having a debate in Washington. He said airing of racing's problems at federal hearings has created public relations challenges for the sport.

Originally published on BloodHorse.com.

About the Author

Frank Angst

Frank Angst is a staff writer for The Blood-Horse magazine. An American Horse Publications three-time winner in best news story category, Angst has covered horse racing for more than a decade. Angst spent ten years at Thoroughbred Times, where he earned awards as that magazine’s senior writer and helped launch Thoroughbred Times TODAY. Besides covering horse racing, Angst enjoys handicapping. Angst has written about sports for more than 20 years, including several seasons covering a nationally ranked Marshall Thundering Herd football team.

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