NY Tightens Rule on Oxygen Therapy for Horses

New York has tightened the rules on use of oxygen therapy in racehorses.

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board clarified July 28 that horses are banned from being entered in races if they have received hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment within one week of post time. The therapy is permitted otherwise.

The directive, explained in a release, clarifies existing state rules and is endorsed by the New York Racing Association, the NYSRWB said. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers are used by some trainers to accelerate healing in a horse that has been injured or has an infection.

“If a horse needs hyperbaric oxygen therapy to get from the starting gate to the finish line, it shouldn’t be in the race,” NYSRWB chairman John Sabini said in a statement. “Purified oxygen does not exist naturally in a horse. We are clarifying now that these types of treatments are in the same category we reserve for equine drugs.

“We are very concerned that, within a certain window, these treatments could give a horse an unfair advantage in a race while jeopardizing the horse’s health.”

“Putting limits on when a racehorse can get hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a step in the direction of greater integrity,” Sabini said. “I am aware that some veterinarians promote the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Our rule does not prohibit racehorses from undergoing this therapy. We’re just saying they can’t have it within one week of a race.”

NYRA vice president and director of racing P.J. Campo said the association endorses the directive. “As we get ready to start what should be another successful Saratoga meet, this directive will help to further refine and clarify the New York regulatory practices," he said in a statement.

Saratoga opens July 29.

The NYSRWB directive also applies the same restrictions to all other forms of treatment involving the administration of purified oxygen.

Sabini said the directive was crafted after an operator of a hyperbaric therapy chamber sought approval from NYRA to set up the equipment at Saratoga track. NYRA refused the request, and the operator located the equipment off track grounds in the city of Saratoga Springs. The NYSRWB is requiring the operator to provide a log of all horses that receive treatments.