Horsemen: Industry "Shooting Itself in the Foot."

The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association will request that the National Thoroughbred Racing Association provide it with the findings of its "super testing" project. In addition, the National HBPA's medication committee has adopted a resolution asking that the term "medication violation," and not "positive," be used when tests reveal the presence of Class 3, 4, and 5 drugs in racehorses.

The medication committee met Sunday morning during the National HBPA's winter convention in San Antonio, Texas. The meeting featured a presentation on threshold levels for certain substances by Dr. Thomas Tobin of the University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center.

Clearly, horsemen are concerned about the perception that Thoroughbred racing is rife with cheating. They hope the "super testing" project undertaken by the NTRA's drug testing task force proves the perception to be unfounded.

On Sunday, horsemen challenged those in the industry who insist it's common for horses to be medicated illegally but have no documentation to prove it.

"You guys who are waving the red flag, you're wrong," said Bill Walmsley, National HBPA spokesman and a member of the NTRA board of directors. "It makes it the perfect atmosphere for some breeder at a farm in Kentucky to say this industry is rife with drug use. (The task force results) should take us away from unfounded allegations."

At its board meeting in mid-February, the NTRA will receive the first set of results from the "super testing" program overseen by executive director Jim Gallagher. The results are expected to be released to the racetracks and racing commissions that offered blind samples for the testing, but not to the public. Longtime Nebraska horsemen Bob Lee said if racing commissions get the information, so should horsemen's groups.

Tobin discussed how threshold levels-also called limits, decision levels, or reporting levels, depending on the jurisdiction-have become accepted worldwide. He said the goal is to have "harmonization" of the world's medication policies to create a level playing field.

Tobin said the Association of Racing Commissioners International finally asked for a threshold level for caffeine, a Class 2 agent with the potential to influence a horse's performance.

Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida HBPA, said horsemen are confounded by threshold levels that vary from state to state. In Florida, two more cocaine positives are expected to come down, even though the amounts allegedly found in the horses' systems were miniscule and perhaps resulted from environmental contamination.

"You may think of South Florida as the cocaine capital of North America," Sterling said. "It's getting ridiculous down there. We're not the wild drug-users you might imagine us to be."

In response to a suggestion that the press is largely responsible for fueling racing's bad image, Walmsley said: "We want data as opposed to the innuendo and rumor that has fostered so much of the bad publicity. This industry has got to stop shooting itself in the foot."

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