The West Virginia Racing Commission Feb. 26 approved a resolution agreeing in principle with the effort to bring uniform medication, penalty, and testing rules to racing jurisdictions in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.
The Maryland Racing Commission was the first to do so Feb. 19. Other states that have met privately to discuss the plan include Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Key components of the plan floated by Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association chairman Alan Foreman are threshold levels and withdrawal times for 24 therapeutic medications; improved, uniform drug testing; a ban on adjunct bleeder drugs; continued race-day use of furosemide, also known as Salix or Lasix; and administration of Salix by regulatory veterinarians. Foreman has said he hopes the Mid-Atlantic action serves as a template for the rest of the country.
WVRC deputy attorney general Kelli Talbott, who attended the first Mid-Atlantic meeting earlier in February at Delaware Park, said West Virginia when it rewrote its Thoroughbred racing rules already addressed some issues. She noted, however, West Virginia has threshold levels only for seven of the 24 therapeutic drugs.
The Association of Racing Commissioners International is preparing model rules on medication uniformity, she said.
"The consensus at the (Delaware) meeting was everyone was on board with this," Talbott said. "There could be a holdout commission, but there is a lot of pressure on racing jurisdictions to get uniform rules."
WVRC chairman Jack Rossi said the issue would continue to be examined as the actual language becomes available. He said all parties would have a chance to review any rule changes before they are sent to the state legislature for adoption.
Talbott said if action is taken this year, the earliest the legislature could act is 2014.
Horsemen at the Feb. 26 WVRC meeting indicated support for the uniform rules. Adjunct bleeder medications such as amicar are banned under the revised racing rules of 2012; they would like, however, to keep race-day Salix.
"Most of the horsemen are in alignment with rules being standard in the industry," said Phil Heidenreich, second vice president of the Mountaineer Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association board of directors. "We look forward to that."
"I really like the thresholds for therapeutics," Mountaineer HBPA president John Baird said. "Horsemen will live with that very well."
Randy Funkhouser, president of the Charles Town HBPA, said he would meet with Mountaineer horsemen and discuss whatever rules are eventually presented before the WVRC takes action.
"I would say 99.9% of horsemen want to play within the rules," Funkhouser said. "We want levels (of therapeutic drugs) that help the horse. Everyone wants cheaters to be ferreted out by these new rules."
Talbott said another meeting for Mid-Atlantic representatives is scheduled for March 5. Foreman earlier said he hoped for a commitment of support by racing jurisdictions by March 1.