Medication Consortium Lobbies For Long-Term Funding Mechanism

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, expected to exhaust its bridge funding this year, continues lobbying the industry to support a per-start fee that would be shared by horsemen and racetracks.

RMTC chairman Dan Fick, executive director of The Jockey Club, said the organization needs committed funds beyond 2006. (About $1 million in bridge funding remains for use this year.) The plan calls for a $5 per-start fee from horsemen and a comparable payment from racetracks based on purses. It would be phased in over four years—25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%—from 2006-09.
Therefore, in the first year, the average owner, whose horses make eight starts per year, would pay $1.25 per start, or $10, he said. "We think this is very affordable," Fick said Jan. 22 during the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association winter convention in Tampa, Fla. "If you believe in what we're doing, please support us. We need to raise the level of our staff to get this done."

The RMTC staff consists of executive director Dr. Scot Waterman and one part-time assistant.
Some National HBPA affiliates have expressed a reluctance to help fund the consortium, but not because they don't agree with a uniform medication policy and drug testing for the United States. They said horsemen need guidelines and consistent interpretation of the rules by what they called sometimes-overzealous regulators and stewards.

The concerns developed in part from recent positives for benzoylecgonine (BZE), a metabolite of cocaine, in Indiana and West Virginia. Because of zero-tolerance policies, even trace levels of BZE that chemists said wouldn't influence a horse's performance can result in purse forfeiture, fines, and suspensions.

Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida HBPA and chairman of the National HBPA medication committee, said horsemen would like definitive language in the RMTC policy concerning minimum penalties tied to mitigating circumstances such as environmental contamination. "I think overall most people are satisfied with the (RMTC uniform policy)," Stirling said.

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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