With one regulator openly worrying that the racing industry is "breeding bleeders," the New York State Gaming Commission is moving to take a fresh look at possible new rules governing the future use of furosemide.
The agency's board June 26 used an otherwise routine new rule regarding Lasix administration to veer off into a broader discussion about how New York might reduce race-day use of furosemide (Salix, commonly referred to as Lasix), a diuretic used to prevent, limit, or control bleeding in race horses.
"We're not taking the Lasix issue particularly seriously,'' said commissioner John Crotty, who started off what became a 10-minute discussion about Lasix during the panel's meeting on Monday. He dismissed concerns about the impact on racing if furosemide was restricted, pointing to the success of racing in Hong Kong, where furosemide is not allowed.
"We shouldn't let that issue go as a board," Crotty said.
Other board members joined in with their own concerns about the use of the drug, with a couple expressing interest in having more serious talks about Lasix at the commission's annual board meeting in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in August.
The board had been discussing third-party administration of Lasix when it spawned an idea by one board member that there should be a requirement for an assessment by an independent veterinarian before a horse can be administered the diuretic.
The board two years ago held a forum in Saratoga Springs on the drug's use in racing, but nothing major in the way of new regulations came out of that gathering.
Instead, as one board member noted, the agency has been busy in the two years since that meeting dealing with rules and oversight of a major expansion of commercial casinos in New York. One board member said the state had "lost direction" on the Lasix issue because of the work that had to be dedicated to the state's casino growth and the agency's responsibility for regulating that sector of the gambling industry as well as horse racing.
The discussion Monday came after the panel was asked to approve a new proposed rule that will formalize practices to limit potential conflict of interests by veterinarians who administer Lasix. The rule, when given final approval in the months ahead, will require that Lasix be administered by third-party veterinarians who do not also care for the horses of a trainer or owner.
The preliminarily approved rule is in agreement with model rules of the Association of Racing Commissioners International. Currently 18 states have adopted versions of third-party Lasix administration.
The board said it will seek to have Dr. Scott Palmer, the state's equine medical director, on hand for the next major discussion on the Lasix issue at its August meeting in Saratoga Springs. "I'd like to hear what the doctor has to say on some of this,'' said Robert Megna, a newly confirmed Gaming Commission member who has been a top advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
This year proposed federal legislation, the Horseracing Integrity Act, which was introduced in May, would prohibit the use of Lasix on race day.