Jockey Club Goal: 'Medication-Free' Horse Racing

The use of Salix and adjunct bleeder medications by far has been the most publicized and debated issue in racing this year.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

The Jockey Club has reiterated its calls for a phased-in ban on the anti-bleeding medication Salix but made clear Aug. 14 it wants "medication-free" horse racing.

The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Safety Committee (TSC), which already has made 11 recommendations to date, offered a few more during the Aug. 14 Round Table Conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. They deal with drug classifications, laboratory standards, and uniform penalties--issues discussed at the 2010 conference.

The use of Salix--furosemide, formerly called Lasix--and adjunct bleeder medications by far has been the most publicized and debated issue in racing this year. Stuart Janney III, Jockey Club vice chairman and chairman of the TSC, said it's time for the industry to make changes.

"We respect the pro-Lasix opinion, but The Jockey Club believes horses should compete free of medication," Janney said. "We recommend measured steps on the road to medication-free racing."

The Jockey Club noted action taken by Breeders' Cup and the American Graded Stakes Committee in regard to banning Salix in select 2-year-olds stakes in 2012 and recommends a crop-by-crop phase-in plan to do away with race-day Salix. It will be up to regulators in each racing jurisdiction, however, to implement such a ban.

Also, a number of trainers have voiced concern over a race-day Salix ban and its potential impact on equine health and field size. They support a ban on adjunct bleeder medications being sought by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC), a group of 25 industry stakeholders, but draw the line on Salix.

The safety committee introduced the "2011 Reformed Racing Medication Rules," which rely on input from various racing jurisdictions, the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI), the RMTC, and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities.

The Jockey Club recommends a simplified two-category drug classification system consisting of controlled therapeutic medications and prohibited substances; regulatory limits and/or administration guidelines for all controlled therapeutic medications; a requirement that all drug-testing laboratories be accredited by the RMTC; enhanced race-day security measures; greater coordination and mutual enforcement of penalties among racing jurisdictions; and stricter penalties for prohibited substances and repeat offenders.

The TSC issued two recommendations: adoption of the revised rules by RCI, and restructuring of a veterinary fee schedule that favors administration of drugs over diagnostics and preventative measures.

"Veterinarians have shared their concern that the majority of their revenue is derived from the administration and dispensing of medication while receiving little or no compensation for examinations, diagnostics, or other professional serves," Janney said. "Is it any wonder that our industry is criticized for being overmedicated?

"We agree with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, which addressed this very subject in a white paper, that such a revenue model is fundamentally flawed. Veterinary fee structures should place emphasis upon the value of professional services rather than the administration and dispensing of medication, and further illustrates the importance and need for good communication between the owner, trainer and veterinarian."

Janney said there are "significant challenges" but "many people in this sport have grown weary of the pace of change." He said horse racing "doesn't need federal intervention to set the right course."

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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