Anne M. Eberhardt

Slow Go on Mid-Atlantic Reform in Kentucky

Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council debates proposed uniform medication changes.

If Kentucky is going to join the Mid-Atlantic Uniform Medication Reform's efforts to put uniform medication rules in place in each racing state, it's going to take some work and time.

The state has begun initial consideration of the reforms through its Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council, which makes recommendations to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Several council members expressed concern about the Mid-Atlantic reforms.

While Kentucky already has some of the Mid-Atlantic measures in placefor instance, an RMTC-approved lab and third-party administration of Salix—a gulf exists on some of the specific therapeutic medication policies for the plan's 24 recognized medications. The largest differences of opinion involve the recommended withdrawal time for clenbuterol, a potential change that is especially upsetting to Standardbred horsemen in Kentucky.

Also, veterinarians and horsemen in the state say more withdrawal times are needed than what currently is being offered for the 24 recognized therapeutic medications under the Mid-Atlantic Uniform Medication Reform.

These rifts were on full display Nov. 13 at the KEDRC meeting at the KHRC offices, where Racing Medication and Testing Consortium executive director Dionne Benson outlined the Mid-Atlantic reform and how it would work. 

The RMTC backs the Mid-Atlantic reform, which is championed by Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association chief executive officer Alan Foreman, who also is vice chairman with the RMTC. Through Nov. 1, nine states have approved the plan and 10 others currently are considering it.

Much of the debate at the Nov. 12 meeting centered on clenbuterol, in which Kentucky currently recommends a 72-hour withdrawal time while the Mid-Atlantic proposal carries a 14-day restriction ahead of race day.

Council member Dr. Andy Roberts, a veterinarian, said the Mid-Atlantic clenbuterol withdrawal time would effectively remove from Standardbred racing one of the best therapeutic medications used to treat bronchial issues. Roberts said that because of the quick racing turnarounds in harness racing, the 14-day rule is not reasonable.

In her presentation, Benson said the 14-day withdrawal time was put in place because while clenbuterol is effective as an expectorant and bronchodilator, it also has muscle-building side effects.

Roberts argued that added muscle doesn't necessarily equate to added performance. 

"Feed is anabolic," Roberts said. "Not everything that is anabolic is bad."

The same rift on clenbuterol was the main reason the United States Trotting Association (Standardbreds) left the RMTC in September. Alan Leavitt, a Standardbred breeder who seconded the motion for the USTA to leave the RMTC largely because of the clenbuterol issue, attended the KEDRC meeting to further voice his concern. Leavitt is a Kentucky Horse Racing Commissioner but does not sit on the KEDRC.

Roberts also raised concerns about the seven-day withdrawal time for triamcinolone acetonide (Vetalog), which he said is the best available corticosteroid because it does not lead to cartilage degradation. Roberts said some of the new restrictions would significantly cut back on the treatments he would have available for horses.

Kentucky HBPA chairman Rick Hiles, a member of the KEDRC, expressed concern that many of the withdrawal times do not include recommendations for alternate administration procedures. For instance, a medication may list a withdrawal time based on an oral dose for a medication that Hiles said is commonly administered intravenously (or vice versa).

Several KEDRC members noted that they largely agree on about 18 of the 24 therapeutic medications. The KEDRC made no recommendation but plans to meet again in December.