Alan Foreman

Alan Foreman

Anne M. Eberhardt

Horsemen: Put Brakes on Race-Day Salix Ban

Horsemen's groups have weighed in on a proposed race-day ban on some drugs.

The largest horsemen’s groups in the country said they don’t support a call by the Association of Racing Commissioners International for a five-year phase-out of race-day medication, which currently consists of anti-bleeding drugs.

The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association board of directors said April 18 it opposes the proposal “as currently written.” The organization, which has 30 affiliates in North America, has called for a summit meeting of sorts during its summer convention July 21-24 in Seattle, Wash., to address “key questions we feel have not be sufficiently addressed.”

Earlier in April Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which has member groups in five racing states, expressed skepticism over the call by the outgoing and incoming RCI chairmen. He said such policy should be set by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, which seeks consensus among industry stakeholders in setting medication policy.

“As the national representative of the largest number of horsemen who would be directly impacted by what the RCI proposes, the National HBPA takes issue with RCI’s strategy of pushing a proposal with such far-reaching implications without initially conferring with any of the major representative horsemen’s groups, including the National HBPA,” the organization said.

The National HBPA also said if the National Thoroughbred Racing Association board of directors calls a vote on the RCI proposal at its meeting April 18, it will vote against taking action.

The National HBPA said discussion must focus on “unintended consequences” of not allowing Salix and adjunct bleeder medications on race day; the role of horsemen in addressing public perception of use of therapeutic medications in racehorses; alternative therapies and best practices for treating exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging; and the economic impact any changes would have on the United States racing industry.

Foreman had said repeatedly that claims the U.S. industry must fall in line with countries in Europe and other countries must be supported by actual evidence of how horses are treated with medication in those jurisdictions. Salix isn’t permitted on race day in other countries, but it is used regularly for training, according to horsemen.

“Tell us their detection levels and what they’re testing for, and then you can have the debate,” Foreman said. “Our testing might be tougher. Don’t compare us until you have all the facts.”

Foreman also said the announcement at the conclusion of the RCI annual meeting in late March left many questions.

“I don’t think they know what it means,” he said. “It was a headline-grabbing sound bite lacking in credibility and substance.”

Foreman noted a South African study last year showed the benefits of Salix. Like the National HBPA, he said the current developments “reinforce a stereotype that’s not fair” but hard to refute.

“It’s like saying there’s something wrong with Santa Claus,” he said.

The National HBPA said concerns over public perception are legitimate but largely “emotional.” The group said calling trainers “needle-pushers” because they used approved therapeutic drugs creates misconceptions.

On April 14 RCI chairman Willie Koester of the Ohio State Racing Commission said the call to phase out use of any medication on race day “has been pretty much the sentiment of RCI.” He acknowledged the only issue is use of anti-bleeding drugs on race day.

“Everybody’s not going to join in on this, but I hope they do,” Koester said.

Koester also said there is no effort to ban the use of accepted mediations for training purposes. “We have no problem with anything therapeutic,” he said.

NHBPA RCI Response

NHBPA RCI Response Press Release