Anne M. Eberhardt

Indiana Adopts Model Rules; Group Has Doubts

The language in the state's drug rules not in lockstep with RCI, watchdog group says.

The Indiana Horse Racing Commission April 30 adopted the Controlled Therapeutic Medication Schedule and multiple medication violation penalty system.

But a regulatory watchdog organization said it's premature to call it uniformity because the rules aren't in lockstep with the National Uniform Medication Program.

The IHRC unanimously approved model rule threshold levels for 24 commonly used therapeutic drugs. However, earlier in April, the RCI added albuterol–said to be a alternative to the bronchodilator clenbuterol–and isoflupredone to the list. Indiana plans to add them at a later date.

The testing thresholds for the 24 original drugs on the schedule will take effect May 15 at Indiana Grand Race Course, which opens May 6, and Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, which began its harness meet in late March.

"We applaud the state of Indiana and the Indiana Horse Racing Commission for joining the growing number of states that have adopted these important reforms in their entirety," said Alex Waldrop, president and chief executive officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and chairman of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. "Along with the recent RMTC accreditation of three national testing laboratories, this represents another important step toward our goal of national adoption and implementation of uniform rules, penalties, and testing standards."

Indiana recently contracted with HFL Sport Science, an accredited Kentucky laboratory, to handle its drug testing.

Indiana Breeder and Owner Protective Inc., which tracks racing-related regulation in Indiana and has influenced some policies, on May 1 questioned whether the Indiana rules are indeed uniform. In a statement on its website, IBOP noted the IHRC approved language that states it "may" assign points under the MMV penalty system; the actual model rule makes it mandatory.

"The IHRC's multiple medications violation rule takes a significant deviation from the model rule by making the assignment of points for a positive medication violation in Indiana an option, not a requirement as in the model rule," IBOP said. "We see any creation of the ability for the selective application of points (as weakening) the concept of having a national uniform penalty system, and is another step that will fuel the call for federal intervention.

"We see the ability for arbitrary assignment of points as creating an open door for legal challenges should Indiana ever issue an additional penalty based upon their newly adopted points system. The arbitrary nature of the assignment of any points is the ethical equivalent of selective enforcement when compared to the overriding goal of national uniformity."

IBOP also said the multiple violation penalty system as adopted in Indiana doesn't include model rule language that allows trainers to petition RCI to "expunge" points based on violations and time periods.

In regard to IHRC approval of the definition of a sample used for drug testing, IBOP said there is nothing in RCI model rules that states "any cleared samples may be used for research and/or investigative purposes." The group noted that "test sample" already is defined in the state's pari-mutuel statutes.

"Currently, there is no definition of exactly what a 'cleared sample'  is in the IHRC administrative rules," IBOP said. "Also, there is no statement within the IHRC's administrative rules that no action will be taken against an owner or trainer if the results of a primary test sample are negative.

"We see this new sample definition as the IHRC granting itself the ability to test primary samples beyond their receipt of a notice that the primary test was negative. In essence, the definition creates enough ambiguity to allow for negative tests to be investigated further."

The National Uniform Medication Program also says the race-day anti-bleeder medication furosemide, also called Salix or Lasix, must be administered by third-party veterinarians, either those who work for a racing commission or an outside service hired by racetracks, for example. IBOP clarified that Indiana statute doesn't permit third-party administration of Salix.

The IHRC several years ago adopted an emergency rule giving it discretion on Salix adminisration, but it was repealed after IBOP made its case that the emergency rule violated statute. The rule was changed and allows for supervision of Salix administration, which meets the model rule definition, officials said.

Officials have said the intent of the National Uniform Medication Program is for each racing regulatory agency to adopt the same rules for the benefit of horsemen and the public. There has been no discussion thus far about the potential impact should the model rules or their enforcement actually vary from state to state.

The IHRC, in a statement released April 30, indicated it had approved RCI model rules and told horsemen and veterinarians current drug-testing threshold levels will change.

"Horsemen should be aware that the new threshold levels will result in some medications having longer suggested withdrawal times than they currently do," the IHRC statement said. "Prior to the May 15 implementation date, horsemen are urged to adhere to the longest published withdrawal time for each medication in order to avoid a positive test."

The rules adopted by the IHRC pertain to Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Standardbred racing. The harness industry had submitted comments objecting to the same-rules-for-different-breeds plan, in particular for clenbuterol; the new 14-day cutoff time will pertain to all three breeds.