Jockey Club Seeks Tougher Medication Rules

The rules released March 30 call for stricter penalities and better drug testing.

The Jockey Club officially released its “Reformed Racing Medication Rules” March 30, but broad adoption of the policies hinges on action by regulators in all racing jurisdictions.

Work on the document began last year and was outlined at The Jockey Club Round Table conference in August. A draft included parameters for administration of race-day furosemide, commonly called Salix or Lasix, but that language was stripped from the final document.

The methodology for the proposed revised regulations was outlined in The Blood-Horse of March 31.

“We have been refining this document since then and the result is a dramatically streamlined set of regulations that is on par with international standards,” Jockey Club president and chief operating officer James Gagliano said. “It creates a new enforcement scheme with far stiffer penalties and deterrents for repeat offenders.

“We look forward to continuing our collaboration with industry organizations and national, state, and local regulatory agencies to see these rules adopted.”

The rules are based on the premise that horses should compete only “when free from the influences of medication.” Furosemide is currently used on race day, but an executive summary of the rules indicates it would be banned through a “transitional process.”

The rules call for equine drug testing only by laboratories accredited by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium; stronger sanctions for repeat violators of medication rules; medication histories of all racehorses; surveillance of horses within 24 horses of a race; mandatory rest periods for horses that suffer exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage; publishing of administration and withdrawal guidelines for controlled therapeutic drugs; and “best practices’ for improved security and monitoring of horses.

The Jockey Club said it is “encouraging” all jurisdictions to adopt the rules, which are a tightening of model rules approved by the Association of Racing Commissioners International and already in place in some states.

Racing has no mechanism to mandate adoption on a national level. It appears to be relying on a series of articles in the New York Times and renewed calls by two members of Congress for federal legislation governing medication in racehorses to spur action by regulators.

The debate over furosemide use on race day has been divisive for the racing industry, and there has been no indication this year that proponents of the medication intend to back down.

Alan Foreman, chief executive of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and a member of the group that worked on aspects of the revised drug rules last year, said parts of the document still need to be reviewed by groups such as the RMTC. He said the new rules "take Lasix to a 48-hour drug, which is going to be a flashpoint with a number of organizations" that support its continued use.

"There shouldn't be an expectation that what has been proposed has the support of the entire industry," Foreman said. "In all fairness, the industry still needs to discuss which (aspects) are appropriate." 

“As we have said many times before, The Jockey Club believes that the overuse of medication endangers our human and equine athletes, threatens the integrity of our sport, and erodes consumer confidence in our game,” Gagliano said. “Horses should compete only when they are free from the influence of medication, and these reformed rules represent a giant step toward achieving that goal.”

Breeders’ Cup has banned use of race-day furosemide in its 2-year-old stakes during this year’s World Championships. The American Graded Stakes Committee had planned to pull grades from all 2-year-old stakes that aren’t furosemide-free this year but earlier this year said it needs more time to study the policy.

“Safety and integrity are values that are paramount to the viability of Thoroughbred racing,” Breeders’ Cup president Craig Fravel said in a statement. “We must dedicate our efforts to adopting uniform national rules that ensure a level playing field and that ensure those who do not wish to abide by those rules can no longer compete against those who do.”

The AGSC falls under the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, whose president, Dan Metzger, said reformed drug rules “provide a reasonable and common sense approach to achieve uniformity and impose severe penalties on those who repeatedly violate rules. Adoption of these revised rules will provide our industry with necessary, responsible, and positive reform.”