The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council, citing its statutory mission, will be involved in the debate over race-day medication, officials said May 25.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, to which the KEDRC makes recommendations, recently formed a committee to study the issue. Various groups have weighed in since the outgoing and incoming chairmen of the Association of Racing Commissioners International called for a ban on race-day drugs.
In most North American jurisdictions even therapeutic medications are banned on race day. Thus, the debate has come down to anti-bleeding drugs such as Salix, which is used in most Thoroughbreds for racing.
“The (KHRC) committee will be looking at every aspect of this,” said Dr. Jerry Yon, KEDRC chairman and a member of the racing commission. “We’ve just got to get all our homework done and then bring it back to the drug council.”
The homework involves independent study by the committee as well as looking at the results of an international race-day drug summit set for June 13-14 in New York. Attendees are expected to get detailed information about medication policies and drug testing in foreign countries.
Some in the U.S. racing industry believe calls for a “European policy”—horses supposedly racing “clean” on race day—lack substance because they may not be based in fact.
“There are a lot of rumors but not a lot of scientific data out there,” Yon said. “We may not be getting quite the full story.”
Kentucky Sen. Damon Thayer, who sits on the KEDRC, wants Kentucky to take the lead on the issue as it did for anabolic steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and said the council has a “statutory obligation” to do so. But he acknowledged questions whether horses in foreign countries truly race drug-free muddle the debate.
Trainer Rick Hiles, also on the KEDRC, related a story about an individual who asked why a European country had no positives for phenylbutazone, a NSAID that can be administered no later than 24 hours before a race in the U.S. Hiles said the individual was told the jurisdiction didn’t test for the drug.
Officials said the same could be true for other drugs, depending on the levels for which they are tested in urine and plasma.
Thayer credited two members of Congress for spurring action by introducing federal legislation that would ban all medication in horses, but he called himself a proponent of states’ rights. For that reason, “I would prefer this be handled at the state level,” he said.
“If we don’t do anything at the state level, it’s going to eventually happen at the federal level,” Thayer said. “Do not doubt the sincerity of (Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Ed Whitfield) on this issue. I’m not enthralled with having the (Federal Drug Administration) regulating horse racing.”
Thayer said the KEDRC has credibility because of the diverse backgrounds of its members and will make recommendations to the KHRC.