Racing Officials, Legislators Discuss Racehorse Steroids

An impending Congressional hearing on steroid use in Major League Baseball--and the possibility the inquiry could expand to other sports--has led the Thoroughbred racing industry to take preemptive action on Capitol Hill.

Representatives of the horse racing industry met Jan. 8 with legislative staff members in Washington, D.C., to update them on steps the industry is taking to regulate use of anabolic steroids in racehorses and horses sold at auction. The effort was spearheaded by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

The meeting was attended by NTRA officials including president and chief executive officer Alex Waldrop; Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International; and Scot Waterman, DVM, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. RCI and the RMTC have formulated model rules that are being implemented in various states to regulate use of steroids.

Most major racing states have adopted or will adopt regulations that basically ban the use of steroids in equines on race day by the second quarter of 2008. Questions remain as to threshold levels and withdrawal times for testing, but the consensus among industry officials has been steroid use must be regulated in some fashion.

"We met with staff members on Capitol Hill to educate them on our industry for testing for steroids in horses, and to outline the guidelines and penalties that are or will be in place," Waldrop told The Blood-Horse Jan. 8. "We underscored that the horse racing industry is well-advised to get serious about adopting a rule."

Congress has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 16 to discuss the "Mitchell Report" issued by United States Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell on the topic of steroid use in MLB. The report has implicated high-profile baseball players.

Congress in recent years has held hearings into the situation surrounding the Jockeys' Guild and health insurance for backstretch workers. When asked if he believes the horse racing industry will become part of a steroids inquiry, Waldrop said: "Is it a possibility? No question. Clearly steroid use is something Congress is concerned about in all professional athletics. Do I think we'll be called (to testify)? It's hard to say, but I think we impressed them (Jan. 8)."

Martin and Waterman outlined to legislative staffers the model rule and penalties being adopted by the racing industry, Waldrop said. The horse auction industry, meanwhile, has enacted a voluntary steroids testing policy.

Waldrop said the objective of the meeting on Capitol Hill was to inform legislators racing is "attempting to manage the problem" with model rules and penalties. He said it's key for individual states to adopt the regulations.

"The word to (the racing industry) is to act, or Congress will act forcefully," Waldrop said. "A blanket prohibition would not be practical for our industry. The model rule RCI and the RMTC adopted is the way to go. We need to step up as an industry, or Congress may be tempted to pass legislation."

Anabolic steroids do have therapeutic uses in racehorses, and some horsemen's groups want to ensure they can be used for such purposes. In most states that are considering regulation, the cut-off for use of steroids before a race is 45 days to 120 days, depending on opinion.

(Originally published at  

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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