Oklahoma Lowers Clenbuterol Limits for Racehorses

At the March meeting of the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission (OHRC) members of the voted to amend the current contraband rule regarding clenbuterol to read as follows:

Nor shall any person have in his/her possession within the enclosure the drug Clenbuterol other than in a form approved by the FDA, which approval currently allows the use of clenbuterol under two brand names: Ventipulmin Syrup and Aeropulmin Syrup. Possession within the enclosure of any form of clenbuterol other than the Ventipulmin Syrup and Aeropulmin Syrup, in their original container, the container in which the drug was distributed by its manufacturer, is prohibited.

Clenbuterol is a bronchodilator, and it is used in horses with respiratory problems to relax smooth muscles in the airway, causing the airway to dilate. It also stimulates the activity of the cilia in the trachea, assisting the process of eliminating mucus and microscopic debris. Recently, several racing jurisdictions have imposed new limits or bans on clenbuterol because, like all beta-2 agonist drugs, it has adrenergic (muscle building) effects and was essentially being used as a "replacement" for anabolic steroids.

The revised rule was adopted as both an emergency rule which will go into effect as soon as it is approved by Okla. Governor Mary Fallin and under permanent rulemaking. Possession by anyone within the enclosure will result in strong penalties according the discussion by Commissioners and staff during the meeting. Executive Director Constantine Rieger told horsemen at the meeting that the law enforcement division of the Commission will be vigilant in conducting random and unannounced searches in the barn area to seek out and eliminate contraband clenbuterol at all Oklahoma racetracks. The penalty for possession of contraband can be a suspension of up to one year, and a fine of up to $2,500.

Further action to discourage the illegal or inappropriate uses of lenbuterol include a reduction of the permitted level of Ventipulmin or Aeropulmin in post-race testing of racehorses. Effective April 10, 2012, the OHRC approved level will drop from 500 pg/mL to 275 pg/mL. This level will apply on that date to all breeds racing in Oklahoma.

Additionally, effective May 4, 2012, the approved level for Quarter Horses, Paints and Appaloosas racing in Oklahoma will be further reduced to 25 pg/mL. The lower level for Quarter Horses was approved with a delayed implementation to provide up to 45 days for horses being treated in a manner permitted under the old 500 pg/ml level adequate time to withdraw those horses from the drug and allow the drug to clear a horses system completely once the use is discontinued. This is similar to the process used by the commission in eliminating the use of anabolic steriods in 2011.

Both the American Quarter Horse Association and the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association supported a lower level for the Quarter Horse, Paint, and Appaloosas racing in Oklahoma and provided reasonable justification for the commission to approve a different level for those breed.

In other action keeping with the Commission's intention to keep Oklahoma racing free from influence of illegal and non-permitted medications, the rules regarding taking of samples were amended to provide for the track veterinarian to take samples for drug testing from catastrophically injured horses prior to administering any other drugs as required for the welfare of the injured horse. The amendments provide that while a trainer may witness the collection of samples in those situations, the track veterinarian can also identify witnesses from those present at the time the sample is drawn if the trainer is not immediately available.

A rule on labeling of medications was passed over as the horsemen and the commission staff agreed it needed more work, but the commissioners also approved an amendment to the Oklahoma Breeding Development Fund that will provide additional financial resources for equine research and the necropsy program.

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