Medication Issue Dominates Racing Conference

Racing and Wagering Integrity event kicks off in Oklahoma City April 25.

The use and possible abuse of therapeutic medications will be dominating the discussions throughout the 78th annual Conference on Racing and Wagering Integrity underway in Oklahoma City April 25.

The annual conference, hosted by the Association of Racing Commissioners International is the largest meeting of racing regulators held in the United States. It is taking place at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City.

The conference began April 25 with training sessions for new racing commissioners and was followed by joint sessions with the Racing Officials Accreditation Program designed to tackle new regulatory topics that racing stewards and judges face.

RCI President Ed Martin said public policymakers should consider “expanding the role of the commissions by providing resources and authority to assess the propriety of equine veterinary care of horses in training.” He raised the possibility that state legislation could empower commissions to review whether medications are being overused or abused by track veterinarians.

“Our current enforcement is focused on ensuring that no horse has an unfair advantage on race day. The overwhelming majority of medication violations in racing are for legal substances administered by licensed professional veterinarians," Martin said.

"While a commission can suspend or revoke a racing license for a violation of the rules of racing, the ability to suspend or revoke a license to practice veterinary medicine for the inappropriate use of medications to facilitate the running of a horse that should not be allowed to run is beyond the authority of most commissions,” he said.

In the U.S., the State Veterinary Boards are the licensing authority for veterinarians as well as the government agency with jurisdiction to assess the appropriateness of veterinary care.

RCI meetings will also focus on the use of Clenbuterol as well as the race-day use Furosemide. The regulators plan to work on assessing the adequacy of current medication rules and the development of a more stringent penalty system.

Martin indicated that the current penalties may not be an adequate deterrent. He indicated that the regulators are discussing a “motor vehicle type point system” which would punish repeat offenders while not tarnishing those who have an isolated violation for an approved therapeutic substance.

The April 26 conference sessions will kick off with a roundtable discussion with prominent racehorse owners Maggie Moss and George Strawbridge.