Though there are differences of opinion on what should be done next in the area of medication reform , everyone seems to agree there is a continuing problem and something should be done.
The perceptions and realities of drugs used in the training of Thoroughbreds was the overriding theme at the annual Jockey Club Round Table, held Aug. 23 at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
While many want to constantly discuss the negative while skimming over positive advancements, Stuart Janney, chairman of The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Safety Committee, said much has been accomplished since the 2008 Round Table was held last August.
"Our recommendation of June 2008 calling for the immediate adoption by all North American racing authorities of the RCI Model Rule on androgenic anabolic steroids, which was based on Racing Medication and Testing Consortium recommendations, has effectively eliminated the use of all anabolic steroids in the training and racing of Thoroughbreds in this country," Janney said. "The industry did it in a year and we should be very proud of that."
The short-term benefits, Janney said, are obvious, but as important, or perhaps more important, is the long-term impact on the breed. Janney, an owner and breeder, said when the current crop of 3-year-olds "heads to the breeding shed, we will know that their accomplishments on the racetrack have been achieved without the aid of anabolic steroids."
He said the committee is now examining the effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on pre-race exams as well as discussing the use of corticosteroids.
"When a corticosteroid is injected into a horse’s joint, it should be done to suppress inflammation and aid the healing process; it should not be injected so that the horse can compete in the next day or two," Janney told those in attendance.
Joe Gorajec, executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, spoke about medication rules from a regulator’s perspective. Indiana has been quite progressive in instituting regulations for medications that may be used in training and racing.
Gorajec hit on a theme that has been talked about for decades: the lack of uniform medication rules from state to state. There are 38 jurisdictions in North America that regulate racing.
"It is common knowledge that racing industry participants and our fans have been frustrated by the lack of uniformity in rules governing horse racing. This frustration is justified," Gorajec said.
When the Association of Racing Commissioners International passes a model rule, Gorajec said, there is an expectation that every state will adopt it, but that doesn’t always happen.
So, he said, there is growing sentiment for an Interstate Compact that could help that process while still giving state regulators the authority to oversee the industry within its borders.
"Such a compact will require action by state legislators. However, once passed, participating states would have the ability to by-pass the time consuming state rule making process while coordinating a uniform implementation date with other states on new rules," Gorajec said. "Should this effort, which is being led by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, come to fruition, it will be a significant step forward to the industry’s goal of national uniform rules."