Veterinarians Make Concerns Known To NTRA

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association has been told of concerns by the veterinary community in regard to its Task Force on Drug Testing and Racing Integrity, and the fact that a veterinarian is not on the task force. But the issues reportedly were not discussed during an NTRA board of directors meeting Dec. 10 in Tucson, Ariz.

About 25 or 30 Kentucky-based veterinarians signed a letter that was sent to NTRA commissioner Tim Smith just after the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association sent Smith a letter that said the organization does not want the task force to address uniform medication rules.

Like the HBPA letter, the letter from the veterinarians was born out of concern that Kentucky's medication policies, considered very liberal, would be a target of the national task force. The letter didn't draw a formal response, according to Dr. Alex Harthill, but he said the vets were told by word of mouth that there wasn't a problem.

"It was old hat," Harthill said. "We just said that we felt our program--our medication policy in Kentucky--was the best that there is. I haven't talked to anybody, including all the people who came here from Europe to run in the Breeders' Cup, that didn't say the same thing."

As for having a seat on the task force, veterinarians who attended the recent American Association of Equine Practitioners convention in Baltimore said they expected to get some bang for their buck. The AAEP last year gave the NTRA $100,000--$75,000 from the membership, and another $25,000 from the board--to support the organization's start-up efforts.

"We've talked to them and asked them what the deal was, and they kind of said it was an oversight, and that they plan to appoint someone to the task force," said Dr. Gary Norwood, immediate past president of the AAEP. "We gave them some names, and they kind of decided (Dr.) Gary Lavin was the right name. To this point, they haven't made any formal announcement."

Bill Walmsley, an NTRA board member and president of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said even though the board did not discuss the matter at its recent meeting, he expects veterinarians will have input. He said in his own opinion, there should not be a veterinarian on the task force.

"Initially I reacted as the veterinarians did, but the more I thought about it, if we can find a good outside individual who doesn't have a tie to the factions, we have a better chance to come up with something meaningful," Walmsley said. "We need to seek their input and advice, and to get information, but whether the veterinarians have a vote to cast (on the task force) is considerably less important."

The factions to which Walmsley referred were created by disputes among chemists. The split within the veterinary community has led the task force to proceed with caution.

"Hopefully there will be a compromise between the two sides," Walmsley said.

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