Medication Summit: Consensus, But Very Few Details

Medication Summit: Consensus, But Very Few Details
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Trainer John Ward: "I really didn't have a lot to say, because the train was running on a straight track."
Participants at Tuesday's Racehorse Medication Summit in Tucson, Ariz., reached a consensus on medication, drug-testing, security, and enforcement, but said much of any future policy depends on scientific determinations. The group of about 30 industry officials did agree on the need for a uniform medication policy and decision levels for therapeutic medications, but specifics weren't discussed.

Drs. Wayne McIlwraith and Robert Lewis, past presidents of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and Jim Gallagher, executive director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Racing Integrity and Drug Testing Task Force, addressed the media after the about seven-hour meeting. Other participants, upon exiting the session, wouldn't comment on details.

"There is a gag order," said Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which last week put forth a comprehensive medication and testing proposal. "A group has been appointed to meet with the press. We're all concerned about what message will come out of this. I will say it was an extraordinary meeting that was very well-conducted."

Even the more vocal industry representatives, such as Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association executive director Kent Stirling, wouldn't comment. The National HBPA had floated its own medication and drug-testing proposal in early October.

"One thing we agreed to is to be central," said Sam Ramer, executive director of the United Thoroughbred Trainers Association. "I'm sure there were some people who weren't happy, but all together, it was a good meeting."

The meeting was facilitated by consultant John Schlegel, who has handled similar meetings for the AAEP. Lewis said the set-up worked very well, and that participants left knowing "this is just the start. The commitment to this thing is strong."

Gallagher said there was a consensus for a national organization to coordinate future drug-testing and medication endeavors, and the need for funding. Again, no details were discussed. He said another meeting could be held in less than 60 days, and indicated the sooner, the better.

The spokesmen said individual state regulations were not addressed; instead, the objective was to form a consensus of opinion. When asked whether Kentucky's medication rules, considered an industry lightning rod, were discussed, they again said the focus was on formulating a consensus, not targeting jurisdictional rules.

McIlwraith said a letter signed by about 30 racetrack practitioners wasn't discussed. The letter offered recommendations for medication use, including threshold testing for Class 1, 2, and 3 drugs. Dr. Arnold Pessin said he sent surveys to 600 practitioners, and received 250 affirmative responses. Pessin said future action by racetrack practitioners would be determined by the results of Tuesday's medication summit.

"The main thing is the veterinarians need to clean up their own back yard," said Pessin, now a consultant in Kentucky. "They're just too chicken to do it."

There has been some friction between a group of racetrack veterinarians and the AAEP. Racetrack vets are said to make up about 10% of the AAEP's membership.

"That had absolutely no significance to the process that took place," Foreman said. "The presence or lack of presence of certain individuals had no impact on the meeting."

Trainer John Ward, an invited participant, said the meeting was extremely positive. "I really didn't have a lot to say, because the train was running on a straight track," he said after the meeting.

Officials said there is a need for all chemists to be on the same page, and also a need to revisit the drug classification system put forth by the Association of Racing Commissioners International. RCI president Lonny Powell wouldn't discuss specifics after the meeting, but did say he hasn't seen such industry unity in years.

"It was an excellent meeting," he said. "My mind is fried in a good way."

The Wednesday morning session at the symposium will feature panel discussions on medication; among the speakers is trainer Tom Amoss, who races horses in Kentucky and Louisiana. McIlwraith said he will discuss the results of Tuesday's meeting, but won't be able to offer any more specifics.

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