Jockey Club Seeks Tougher Equine Medication Rules

The Jockey Club officially released its "Reformed Racing Medication Rules" March 30, but broad adoption of the policies hinges on action by regulators in all racing jurisdictions.

Work on the document began last year and was outlined at The Jockey Club Round Table conference in August. A draft included parameters for administration of race-day furosemide, commonly called Salix or Lasix, but that language was stripped from the final document.

The methodology for the proposed revised regulations was outlined in the March 31 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine.

"We have been refining this document since then and the result is a dramatically streamlined set of regulations that is on par with international standards," said Jockey Club president and chief operating officer James Gagliano. "It creates a new enforcement scheme with far stiffer penalties and deterrents for repeat offenders.

"We look forward to continuing our collaboration with industry organizations and national, state, and local regulatory agencies to see these rules adopted."

The rules are based on the premise that horses should compete only "when free from the influences of medication." Furosemide is currently used on race day, but an executive summary of the rules indicates it would be banned through a "transitional process."

The rules call for equine drug testing only by laboratories accredited by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium; stronger sanctions for repeat violators of medication rules; medication histories of all racehorses; surveillance of horses within 24 horses of a race; mandatory rest periods for horses that suffer exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage; publishing of administration and withdrawal guidelines for controlled therapeutic drugs; and "best practices" for improved security and monitoring of horses.

The Jockey Club said it is "encouraging" all jurisdictions to adopt the rules, which are a tightening of model rules approved by the Association of Racing Commissioners International and already in place in some states.

The debate over furosemide use on race day has been divisive for the racing industry, and there has been no indication this year that proponents of the medication intend to back down.

"As we have said many times before, The Jockey Club believes that the overuse of medication endangers our human and equine athletes, threatens the integrity of our sport, and erodes consumer confidence in our game," Gagliano said. "Horses should compete only when they are free from the influence of medication, and these reformed rules represent a giant step toward achieving that goal."

Breeders' Cup has banned use of race-day furosemide in its 2-year-old stakes during this year's World Championships. The American Graded Stakes Committee (AGSC) had planned to pull grades from all 2-year-old stakes that aren't furosemide-free this year but earlier this year said it needs more time to study the policy.

"Safety and integrity are values that are paramount to the viability of Thoroughbred racing," Breeders' Cup president Craig Fravel said in a statement. "We must dedicate our efforts to adopting uniform national rules that ensure a level playing field and that ensure those who do not wish to abide by those rules can no longer compete against those who do."

The AGSC falls under the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, whose president, Dan Metzger, said reformed drug rules "provide a reasonable and common sense approach to achieve uniformity and impose severe penalties on those who repeatedly violate rules. Adoption of these revised rules will provide our industry with necessary, responsible, and positive reform."

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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