TRA Endorses Broad Medication Reform Policy

The Thoroughbred Racing Associations has endorsed a policy for medication reform that has been supported by many industry stakeholders but so far acted upon piecemeal in various jurisdictions.

The TRA, in a June 21 release that stemmed from its board of directors meeting in May, supports just about all the reforms put forth by industry organizations except a ban on race-day furosemide, also called Salix or Lasix.

Racetracks as a group have been silent on the phase-out or ban of Salix, but the TRA policy suggests that, for now at least, they have no appetite to support an end to using the anti-bleeding drug on race day. The TRA does support regulatory or third-party administration of the drug.

The racetrack trade group said the policy of safety measures is designed to ensure that “only sound horses compete in North American Thoroughbred races.” The policy calls for use of fewer therapeutic medications (roughly 25 instead of 50), a stronger penalty structure for violators, and elimination of treatments that can threaten horses while racing.

Much of the policy already was endorsed by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, the Association of Racing Commissioners International, and The Jockey Club.

“The TRA board identified those issues that most relate to the safety of horses and jockeys,” said TRA president Chris McErlean, vice president of racing for Penn National Gaming Inc. “In many cases these issues have been studied by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and the Association of Racing Commissioners International, and rules already have been passed with the support of many of racing’s national organizations.

“We could make tremendous strides quickly by having each state implement those rules. That is the objective of the TRA members.”

The TRA board is pushing for implementation of rules that would uniformly regulate the use of therapeutic drugs in racing. In particular, the TRA said it supports extending current pre-race-day withdrawal times for approved non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such phenylbutazone, clenbuterol, and corticosteroids.

The TRA also endorsed a revision of the RCI Model Rules on Medication to reduce the number of approved therapeutic medications to be used on horses in training and to increase significantly the penalty guidelines for prohibited substance violations and repeat violators. The TRA said “multiple penalties should be determined on a cross-jurisdictional basis, not state by state.”

The proposals, discussed last year, were picking up steam until earlier this year when race-day Salix became a major issue. The controversy over Salix has thwarted progress on other issues, officials have said.

The TRA said it supports the existing RCI threshold detection level of 2 micrograms (2 trillionths per milliliter) for phenylbutazone, which is known as Bute. The threshold detection level for clenbuterol, a bronchodilator, should be 2 picograms per milliliter, the TRA said.

The racetracks also supports banning of shock wave therapy within 10 days of a race; accreditation for all drug-testing laboratories; and immediate prohibition of race-day administration of adjunct bleeder medications.

As for Salix, the TRA didn’t advocate a phase-out or ban. It instead said “any jurisdiction permitting race-day use of furosemide should implement the RCI model rule, which restricts its administration to regulatory veterinarians or a commission designee, sets a minimum and maximum dosage, and has provisions for post-administration monitoring of horses identified as racing that day.” 

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