A major proponent for national uniform medication rules said Sept. 26 the move by the United States Trotting Association to drop out of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium won't derail the effort.
The USTA Executive Committee also voted unanimously to reject the model medication rules approved by the Association of Racing Commissioners International.
"The effort moves forward," said Alan Foreman, chairman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which is a member of the RMTC. "Not one time in discussions the RMTC has had over the years did the Standardbred industry or the USTA object. It came from out of the blue; last week was the first time we found out there was any issue with corticosteroids and clenbuterol."
The RMTC, during its Sept. 17 meeting in Denver, Colo., voted to authorize its Scientific Advisory Committee to look into whether scientific research supports different medication rules for Standarbreds in regard to withdrawal times for clenbuterol, a bronchodilator, and corticosteroid injections. The RMTC said it took the action at the request of the USTA.
According to individuals in attendance at the meeting, it was noted that some Standardbreds receive clenbuterol a day or two after they race, and because they may race every week or so, the withdrawal time in the model rules is problematic. Corticosteroids, which have therapeutic value but also have strong anti-inflammatory properties, apparently are used on a regular basis.
"There has been no presentation of scientific evidence that Standardbreds or Quarter Horses should be treated differently than Thoroughbreds," Foreman said. "This is really all about a business model, but the welfare of the horse is important to all of us. The (harness industry) wants to treat horses on a weekly basis with clenbuterol and corticosteroids."
USTA president Phil Langley said the organization took the action because the "physical characteristics of the breeds are significantly different. We believe both breeds, Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds, will benefit from having rules concentrated solely on their needs."
Langley said the USTA, which over the past 10 years has contributed about $1 million to the RMTC, said the proposed rules are "entirely focused on the needs of Thoroughbreds with little consideration for Standardbreds." He said the organization supports uniformity and will continue to push for things such as out-of-competition testing.
Regulators in Mid-Atlantic states such as Maryland and Virginia already have passed the model medication rules, which blanket all breeds. Foreman said there could be complications in states like Delaware and Pennsylvania, which have separate racing commissions for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing.
"Maryland has adopted the rules," Foreman said. "The only way to stop it there is to go to court."
Other states such as California, Kentucky, and New York, all of which have Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing, plan to adopt the model medication policy. The RMTC is currently soliciting on-the-record support for the rules from regulators and racetracks around the country.