Officials Say Report Dispels Drug Criticism

The report from RCI indicates racing has an undeserved negative perception.

Racing industry officials said a report that shows 99.5% of biological samples taken from racehorses and tested by laboratories in 2010 were “clean” dispels claims that horse racing is drug-ridden.

The report, called “Drugs in Racing 2010—The Facts,” was compiled by the Association of Racing Commissioners International and released Sept. 8. The report said “salacious comments” made in stories in mainstream publications “create an undeserved negative perception” of horse racing.

A few members of Congress also have targeted horse racing because of what they perceive to be—or have been told is—a drug problem.

More than 320,000 samples were tested in 2010. The report states laboratory results indicate 99.5% of them were found to contain no foreign or prohibited substance based on existing testing protocol.

“As the report indicates, horse racing in North America is one of the most highly regulated sports in the world,” National Thoroughbred Racing Association president and chief executive officer Alex Waldrop said. “Moving forward, our regulatory priorities need to be based on the continued pursuit of state-of-the-art testing for new and designer drugs, clear and consistent regulation of therapeutic medications, and strong penalties for any who don’t play by the rules.”

“The report vindicates what I and numerous others familiar with the use and regulation of medication in racehorses in this country have been saying for years,” said Alan Foreman, CEO of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “Our regulation and control of medication and the fairness and integrity of our competition day-to-day is the best and most stringent of any sport in the world, amateur and professional. The facts, both as to the nature and extent of our drug testing and the results, speak for themselves.

“It is about time that responsible individuals and organizations defended and promoted the integrity of our sport rather than continuously denigrating it.”

Horse racing spends about $35 million per year on equine drug testing. The RCI notes the World Anti-Doping Agency, which does human testing in sports, spends about $26 million per year.

Jockey Club president and chief operating officer James Gagliano said the report shows that racing takes its responsibility seriously.

“To that end, we have devoted significant resources to the drug-testing initiative that was announced three years ago to develop world-class equine drug testing laboratories capable of producing consistent results through uniform and standardized testing procedures and quality assurance programs,” Gagliano said. “More recently The Jockey Club has proposed the Reformed Racing Medication Rules, which have been designed to enhance and harmonize medication regulations and best practices.

“Beyond rigorous testing and punishment, The Jockey Club continues to believe that horses must compete only when they are free from the influence of medication in order to enhance the safety of our athletes and the perception of our sport.”

The report touches on use of furosemide, the anti-bleeding drug called Salix (Lasix). It notes the number of furosemide overages has dropped 33% from 2001 to 2010.

Groups including The Jockey Club are pushing for a phase-out of race-day medication including Salix, while major horsemen’s groups have opposed the move.

RCI in the report noted efforts by the racing industry to upgrade testing and related standards but said its imperative for regulatory agencies--most of them are under-funded--to have "adequate resources to maintain an expansive and effective drug-testing program that can evolve as science advances are made in both testing technology and equine care."