Ohio Eyes Changes in Drug Policy and Testing

The racing commission has proposed adopted threshold levels listed in model rules.

The Ohio State Racing Commission is moving forward to adopt drug-testing threshold levels as part of national model rules, and also indicated it will switch to post-race TCO2 screening and bring Thoroughbred racing into the mix.

The OSRC Medication Committee met Aug. 22 to solicit comments on the proposals from veterinarians and horsemen's groups. The panel also asked for written suggestions to be submitted within 10 days.

OSRC member B.J. Roach said the commission would like to be in line with others around the country that have adopted or plan to adopt the threshold levels endorsed by the Association of Racing Commissioners International for various drugs.

"We would like to adopt this and have states the same," Roach said. "We may have to accept something we think should be a bit different."

Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association Dave Basler said the group would submit written comments because "there are significant problems with some of these thresholds." And Jerry Knappenberger, executive director of the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association, said administration withdrawal times for drugs should be formally adopted.

"A lot of jurisdictions are addressing withdrawal times," Knappenberger said. "We need to have withdrawal times as best as RCI can come up with."

Vets, who currently use a patchwork of recommended withdrawal times, also said an official list of withdrawal times is needed.

Ohio has employed pre-race TCO2, or blood-gas, testing for years in Standardbred racing; horses over the limit are scratched. Proposed changes to the testing program include a switch to post-race tests, adding screening for Thoroughbred races, purchasing a new testing machine, and adopting RCI penalties for infractions.

Actual testing would be performed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture Analytical Toxicology Laboratory rather than OSRC investigators. And rather than testing every horse in two or three races, all race winners and some random horses would be tested, according to the proposed guidelines.

Some harness horsemen have questioned use of the current TCO2 radiometer because of clumps of high readings. The maximum permitted TCO2 reading in Ohio is 37 millimoles per liter in blood, though it used to be 38 millimoles to account for variations; also race-day furosemide, called Salix or Lasix, has been shown to elevate TCO2 levels.

In other business, attorney John Izzo, a former OSRC employee who counts the Jockeys' Guild among his clients, urged the the commission to adopt regulations on use of shock-wave therapy and make pre-race examinations of Thoroughbreds mandatory.

Izzo said the exams would dovetail with Ohio's lower threshold level of 2 micrograms per milliliter for phenylbutazone, or Bute. The lower threshold stemmed from claims by some vets that Bute can mask physical ailments during pre-race exams.

"It's something we'll look into," said Joe Crugnale, chief investigator for the OSRC.

Pre-race exams are mandatory for a racetrack to gain accreditation from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance. Ohio's three Thoroughbred tracks haven't applied for accreditation.