Proposed National Drug Policy Takes Another Step Forward

Voluntary Salix use, 24-hour rule on non-steroidals sought

Officials gathered in New Orleans for the first Joint Conference of Racing Regulators approved model rules for a national medication policy. It calls for voluntary use of Salix on race days and use of one of three non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs no later than 24 hours before a race.

The boards of directors of the Association of Racing Commissioners International and North American Pari-Mutuel Regulators Association approved the rules April 3. Now, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium must lobby regulators in each jurisdiction to enact the medication and drug-testing plan.

Under the policy, the only permitted race-day medication is Salix. For any other drug to qualify, there must be a "preponderance of scientific evidence" that it's of therapeutic benefit to the horse, unlikely to affect performance, of no danger to jockeys, unlikely to interfere with the detection of other substances, and efficacious at reducing exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging.

The threshold for Salix has been set at 100 nanograms per milliliter in serum or plasma.

One of three NSAIDs--phenylbutazone, flunixin, and ketoprofen--can be used via injection no later than 24 hours before a race. The consortium has set threshold levels for the substances: five micrograms per milliliter in serum or plasma for phenylbutazone, 20 nanograms per milliliter for flunixin, and 10 nanograms per milliliter for ketoprofen.

Even before the consortium was officially formed, there was widespread support for continued use and administration of Salix on race days. The proposed policy would make it "voluntary", which means a horse would no longer have to qualify via the results of an endoscopic exam, as is the case in some states. In addition, the language would prevent a horse from going "hot and cold"-- inconsistent use of Salix.

"It would be helpful to have all jurisdictions moving forward on this to prevent problems for horses crossing state lines," said Dr. Scot Waterman, executive director of the consortium.

Many jurisdictions already have the 24-hour rule for various substances, but in Kentucky, multiple NSAIDs are permitted for use on race days. Kentucky is expected to be ground zero in the push for uniform medication.

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has said it wants to maintain its current medication policy. However, the Kentucky Racing Commission was abolished earlier this year, and it remains to be seen how the new Kentucky Horse Racing Authority will address the issue.

The policy also recommends anti-ulcer medications--cimetidine, omeprazole, and ranitidine--be allowed up to 24 hours before a race. As for adjunct bleeder medications (amino-caproic acid, tranexamic acid, carbazochrome, and conjugated estrogens), the consortium said it wouldn't seek changes to current regulations in some states until Jan. 1, 2006, at which point their efficacy must be established.

Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic states permit the use of adjunct bleeder medications on race days.

During the Joint Conference of Racing Regulators in New Orleans, RCI president Lonny Powell, a member of the consortium, said a "matrix" is being developed to outline penalties for drug violations. Horses, owners, trainers, and veterinarians would be subject to penalties under the concept, which Powell called a "pretty complicated procedure."

Owners who keep horses with trainers who regularly have positives, for instance, would be penalized. Powell said the consortium could have guidelines ready by the summer.

Linda Mills, president of the Florida HBPA, called on the industry to implement and enforce serious penalties for those who willfully break the rules.

"We as horsemen want to see the real cheaters extremely punished," Mills said. "We think 80% of the problem could be stopped by having control over what veterinarians bring onto the backstretch. You've got to make the penalties for cheaters count."

Charles Gardiner, executive director of the Louisiana State Racing Commission, said the state has found success by increasing penalties according to number of violations and the severity of each one. He said there have been cases in which Class 4 and 5 drugs--therapeutics that aren't believed to alter performance--have been "cocktailed," a term used to describe the mixing of several substances apparently to enhance potency.

Ben Nolt, executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission, said the stacking of fines and suspensions for violators in his state has worked. "It got pretty effective real fast," he said.

The consortium policy defines substances that may be present as the result of environmental contamination or human abuse. If any are found in a post-race test, sufficient time for an investigation would be allowed, and if contamination is demonstrated, it should be considered a mitigating factor in any penalty.

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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