Clenbuterol Continues In Limelight

One month after it became legal for use in training but not for race-day, the bronchodilator clenbuterol continues to pose concerns for horsemen and regulators.

Previously illegal in the United States but legal in Canada and Australia before it was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration on May 11, clenbuterol is marketed under the trade name Ventipulmin syrup. The presence of the drug in post-race tests can result in disqualification, forfeiture of purse, and/or suspensions.

The New Jersey Racing Commission has suspended Thoroughbred trainers J. D. Conner and Robert Jacobs (see below) for one year each after horses under their care tested positive for the prohibited bronchodilator clenbuterol.

In addition, one other clenbuterol case involving a Thoroughbred is under investigation and four Standardbred trainers have also been suspended for one year as a result of clenbuterol positives.

In Kentucky, uncertainty over the amount of time needed for horses to metabolize clenbuterol led to horses being scratched at Churchill Downs during the week of June 8-15. Some Churchill Downs trainers who had administered clenbuterol to horses for training began scratching them after the state racing commission distributed a memo from a veterinarian who stated clenbuterol could remain in a horse's system--and therefore be detected in tests--for as long as 13 days after last being administered.

The veterinarian, Dr. Thomas Tobin of the University of Kentucky, is an authority on drug testing matters and advises the Kentucky commission.

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, five horses were scratched from the June 11 card and one was scratched the previous day due to trainer concerns over clenbuterol. Although horses have different rates of metabolism, Kentucky racing commission executive director Bernie Hettel said he was advising horsemen to use the 13-day time frame as a gauge in deciding whether to run a horse that has been administered clenbuterol.

In California, California Horse Racing Board executive director Roy Wood told regulators the agency staff has "done everything humanly possible to address the rumors, innuendoes, and complaints about clenbuterol--without violating the rights of any licensee. We have intensified our enforcement activities at racetracks. We have conducted audits of barns. We have used undercover agents. We have held meetings with trainers and made it clear that regardless of what the FDA has done, the CHRB prohibits the presence of clenbuterol in any form in post-race tests."

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