The Racehorse Medication and Testing Consortium formed earlier this year has incorporated as a charitable organization and issued its goals and objectives, one of which has been broadened to include the auction and training aspects of the Thoroughbred business.
Dr. Scot Waterman, executive director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Integrity and Drug Testing Task Force, said a chairman of the board and an executive director would be named early next year. The board of directors will be made up of 26 "industry stakeholder groups," Waterman said.
The consortium, now a 501 (c) (3) with corporate bylaws, sprung from the Racehorse Medication Summit held in Tucson, Ariz., in December 2001. Since that time, the consortium has held three face-to-face meetings and some teleconferences.
The consortium's mission is to "develop, promote, and coordinate, at the national level, polices, research, and educational programs which seek to ensure the fairness and integrity of racing, the health and welfare of racehorses and participants, and protect the interests of the betting public."
Its top goal and objective is to "develop and recommend uniform model policies, prohibited practices, and disciplinary procedures and penalties regarding the use of medications and methods in connection with selling, training, and racing horses, while respecting the autonomy and authority of individual state racing commissions and the work of national regulatory organizations."
Previously, the consortium had focused primarily on race-day medication. Waterman said the group decided the medication of horses sold in the auction ring must be part of the equation.
"The people in the group thought it was incredibly important to what we're doing," Waterman said. "We still have to figure out how it best fits. We'd like to be involved with the consignor groups that have already tackled the issue."
A look at medication and training became necessary because several jurisdictions and racing associations have adopted rules for prohibited practices such as blood-doping. The administration of erythropoeitin, for instance, is done as part of a horse's training regimen and not on the day of a race.
Another goal is development of a working relationship with regulators by becoming a "respected source of unbiased information on medication, testing, and research." The consortium plans to stimulate proposals for research into performance-altering substances and define the "legitimate, therapeutic use of medications and/or methods, and draw up reasonable guidelines for their use."
The consortium also plans to develop and recommend uniform laboratory technical standards; establish one or more working laboratories as "reference laboratories" to oversee the standards; develop and implement educational programs; disseminate timely information in regard to its progress; and participate with national and international organizations to accomplish its goals.
Among the research priorities are development of threshold levels and/or withdrawal times for known therapeutic medications, and identification of sources of contamination.
Waterman said the consortium, which has about $800,000 in seed money through voluntary contributions, hopes to fund 10 to 15 research projects in 2003. A model policy for medication and drug-testing in the United States may not be ready until late in 2003, he said.
"The development of the policy is a short-range goal," Waterman said. "It currently lacks the specifics to become a policy document."
At the conclusion of the Racehorse Medication Summit sponsored by the American Association of Equine Practitioners, participants agreed that only Salix, formerly known as Lasix, should be permitted on race days. That hasn't changed, but other therapeutic medications, though widely used in racehorses, have not been officially accepted by the consortium pending further research.
In a related matter, the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which recently announced a revised proposed national policy on drug testing and therapeutic medication, said Dec. 11 the Florida HBPA and Gulfstream Park have agreed to automatically divert $3 for each horse that finishes first through fourth to the Racehorse Medication and Drug Testing Consortium during the upcoming meet. Gulfstream will then match the funds dollar for dollar, according to the National HBPA.
The National HBPA's proposed policy accepts the use of therapeutic medications on race day and focuses on threshold levels, withdrawal times, blood testing of samples, and laboratory standards.