The Association of Racing Commissioners International board has selected five initial members for its new Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee, a group that could eliminate or significantly reduce the current role of the industry's Racing Medication and Testing Consortium in shaping medication and testing policies.
The first five people appointed to the new committee are Dr. Rick Sams, director of HFL Sports Science in Lexington; Dr. Scott Stanley, director of the University of California-Davis Kenneth L. Maddy Laboratory; Mary Robinson, of the University of Pennsylvania where she is co-director of the Equine Pharmacology Laboratory and director of the Pennsylvania Equine Toxicology and Research Laboratory; Dr. Ken McKeever, associate director of the Equine Science Center at Rutgers University; and Dr. George Maylin, director of the New York Drug Testing and Research Program at Morrisville State College.
The board plans to add more members to the new committee.
The RCI has asked the RMTC to merge into the new scientific board in a move the RCI says will reduce redundancy in the rule-making process. RCI president Ed Martin noted that committee members Sams and Stanley have served on the RMTC Scientific Advisory Committee. Robinson has conducted RMTC-funded research.
McKeever and Maylin worked this year on a cobalt study that was funded by the United States Trotting Association. This year following a dispute over an RMTC recommendation to lengthen the withdrawal times for clenbuterol, the USTA withdrew from the consortium.
The withdrawal of the USTA from the RMTC and "non-participation of key experts" were two of the reasons RCI cited when it asked the industry consortium to merge with its new Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee. RCI said the RMTC has seen the "departure of some science advisors deemed essential by key regulatory jurisdictions."
In November the USTA created its own Medication Advisory Committee, of which Maylin was appointed a member. At the time Alan Leavitt, a Kentucky Horse Racing commissioner who also was appointed to the committee, said the USTA committee would conduct its own Standardbred-specific medication research.
"We intend to do our own research," Leavitt said. "The decision (to leave the RMTC) was forced upon us because we didn't have enough scientific representation. We were driven to our position of leaving by the RMTC's refusal to be reasonable."
Other factors cited by the RCI in calling for the RMTC to merge included concerns about the scientific advisory process and transparency issues.
On Dec. 18 the RMTC issued a press release saying it would reorganize its scientific advisory committee and processes to adapt and respond to new drugs, practices, and substances, but did not say it would merge with RCI. The RMTC executive committee affirmed the importance of "maintaining an independent and apolitical RMTC for equine drug and therapeutic medication research."
Martin said he suspected it would take several months for the RCI proposal to be resolved. He said RCI members will continue to participate in their RMTC roles while decisions play out.