Ogden Mills Phipps, the chairman of The Jockey Club, said April 11 the organization supports the recent Association of Racing Commissioners International initiative to formulate a plan that would eliminate the use of medication in horses competing in races.
“We have often voiced concern and we sincerely believe that the overuse of medication endangers our human and equine athletes, threatens the integrity of our sport and erodes consumer confidence in our game,” Phipps said in a statement released by The Jockey Club. “There is a growing and correct perception that horses in this country are over-medicated.
Phipps said the percentage of total starts with furosemide injections on race day has increased from just over 45% in 1991 to nearly 95% of all horses racing in the U.S. in 2010. He said nearly 90% of all 2-year-old starters receive furosemide on race day.
“Horses should compete only when they are free from the influence of medication.”
Phipps noted that medication policies in the U.S. are in stark contrast with the rest of the world as international racing authorities continue to phase medication out of their racing programs.
He also said that The Jockey Club is not advocating a so-called “zero tolerance” policy where results may be influenced by the precision of the laboratory equipment used to test the samples.
Phipps said The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Safety Committee are encouraging member organizations of the RCI to work with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, the American Association of Equine Practitioners and other industry stakeholders to “immediately develop a strategic plan and set a timeline for the development of rules and penalties to transition the U.S. to medication-free racing. The Jockey Club stands ready to assist in those activities.
“The ban on anabolic steroids proved that when this industry works collaboratively, game-changing progress can be made in a short period of time,” Phipps said. “We need more of that spirit of cooperation and a greater sense of urgency.”