The model rule, which will now be sent to the April 24 RCI board of directors meeting for disposition, recommends that regulators push for legislation that would allow for limited sample levels of only four anabolic steroids–stanozolol (Winstrol), boldenone, nandrolone, and testosterone.
Under the rule’s guidelines, all other anabolic steroids would be prohibited. Presently, only Iowa has rules in place for the testing of anabolic steroids in North America, while Europe has been testing for years.
“Historically, in North America, anabolics have not been regulated,” said Dr. Scot Waterman, director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. “Internationally, they have spent a lot of time investigating steroids, and now they are banned. North America is different from the rest of the world.”
Waterman, who works with the RCI’s Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee which passed the rule, said he has seen steroids go from being almost a non-issue four years ago to a current hot-button topic in horse racing.
“It used to be a once-in-a-blue-moon type of scenario, kind of a shot in the arm for the horse,” said Waterman of anabolic steroid use.
Now, Waterman said, horses are being found with multiple anabolics in their systems, based on various post-race samples and analyzed data from veterinary bills supplied by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.
"We think the rule will eliminate regimented usage of steroids in the sport," Waterman added. "This is a huge change from status quo. It will be a huge departure from how things are done now."
The rule also contained language that would allow for approved anabolics to be used in horses that were recovering from illness and/or injury, but levels would have to below the suggested thresholds before the horse could be removed from a veterinarian’s restricted list.
An audience member asked if the guidelines would apply to sale horses as well, and Waterman said it would, noting that perceived abuse in the auction industry was a driving factor in the committee’s focus on anabolic steroids.
“I’ve heard too many stories about the ‘incredibly shrinking horse,’ ” he said.
Also passed in the general member meeting were models rules that include an overhaul of RCI’s chapter on pari-mutuel wagering, specifically to deal with updated language on wagering security and revisions to “Pick” types of wager (such as Pick-3, Pick-4, etc.), as well as minor rule revisions on medical personnel and split-sample testing, among others.
The rules on Pick wagering provide guidelines that include making a race a “no contest” event if surfaces are changed (such as turf to dirt) following the close of wagering. In the case of Pick-3 wagering, additional language was offered that would allow for scaled consolation pools to be distributed to those bettors who saw their horses scratched out of the second and/or third legs.
The medical personnel language asks for at least one member of a track’s medical team be either a paramedic or nurse practitioner. The split-sample language was modified to change the time period from 48 hours to three business days for samples to be submitted to laboratories.
The passed model rules, which were more than two years in the making, according to RCI chairman of model rules Dennis Oelschlager, will be taken back to the states and jurisdictions of the respective regulators, where efforts to enact them into regulatory law will begin.
“It’s a strong call for uniformity,” said Paul Bowlinger, RCI executive vice president. “We come together to agree on the best standards and practices, but they still must go through legislation.”
The RCI annual convention, the 73rd straight year of such a gathering by regulators, is scheduled to run through April 27 at the Snake River Lodge in Jackson. RCI members include 38 states and nine neighboring territories or countries, according to the organization’s Web-site.