Education was the primary mission of the June 13 International Summit on Race Day Medication, EIPH and the Racehorse held at Belmont Park in New York.
“Our primary goal today is to inform,” Alex Waldrop, president and chief executive officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said as the two-day event opened. “If you are hoping for a debate on these topics, you may be disappointed. Today these discussions are designed to promote interaction with our colleagues around the globe.”
The NTRA is one of three organizations that organized the summit in response to federal legislation filed the week of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky calling for a ban on all performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing and proposing a three-strikes-and-you’re-out-penalty system. The American Association of Equine Practitioners and the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium are the other summit organizers.
More than 100 people representing nine countries on six continents attended the conference, which isn’t expected to bring about immediate changes in medication policy in the U.S. Widespread use of the legal anti-bleeding drug Salix, or furosemide, is the focus of the race-day drug debate.
Robert Manfred, executive vice president of Major League Baseball, kicked off the program with stories about how professional baseball has dealt over the years with its steroid scandal.
“First and most important, there is no winning the war against performance-enhancing substances,” Manfred said. “The best you can do is wage an effective battle against these kinds of substances, because at the end of the day it is cheating.”
His presentation was followed by an overview by Waldrop of the complicated debate surrounding use of Salix and a presentation of the most recent fan poll by Harvard University’s SocialSphere group. Much of the late-morning session was devoted to the research identifying the cause of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging (EIPH) and how Salix is the most effective drug available to treat the condition.
Questions from the audience focused on Salix’s effect on performance, its impact on bone strength, and whether the drug is capable of masking illegal drugs in racehorses. A panel of veterinarians—Dr. Ed Robinson, Dr. Stephen Reed, and Dr. Rick Sams—concluded there was no research that showed Salix affected bone strength, and that research has shown the drug does not effectively mask other medications.
Regarding performance, Robinson said: “There is some question whether furosemide actually improves performance or just allows a horse to race to best of its ability.” He reviewed research that shows how horses with EIPH scores of grade three or grade four (the most severe on a scale of one to four) run several lengths behind winning horses.
The two-day summit will conclude June 14. The second session will feature facilitated discussions closed to the media, though a press briefing will be held after the discussions.
The NTRA is posting various summit materials on its Web site.