Corticosteroids Next on RMTC Hit List

The RMTC has outlined its goals for the next two years.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium recently prepared a list of 2009-10 goals, one of which is tackling use of corticosteroids in racehorses.

Corticosteroids—those commonly used in horses include dexamethasone, prednisone, and triamcinolone—have strong anti-inflammatory capabilities are designed to be used therapeutically. They are injected into joints to alleviate swelling.

The focus on corticosteroids comes as the RMTC has succeeded in getting most racing states to adopt regulation of anabolic steroids in racehorses. It appears all but a handful of racing states will have rules on the books before the start of 2009 racing seasons.

Dan Fick, executive director of The Jockey Club and chief executive officer of the RMTC, offered an update on medication and drug testing during the Racing Officials Accreditation Program conference Dec. 8 in Tucson, Ariz. The first ROAP conference was held the same day as the Association of Racing Commissioners International Model Rules Committee meeting, also in Tucson.

Fick said goals for the RMTC the next two years include uniform drug testing; international laboratory accreditation; collecting frozen samples for future testing; more effective sample testing to maximize funding; lobbying state legislatures for more money for drug testing and investigators; and working more closely with the Anti-Doping Research Laboratory operated by Dr. Don Catlin.

“We want to create a world-class drug-testing infrastructure,” Fick said.

The focus on streamlining drug testing began in earnest in August at The Jockey Club Round Table, where Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, proposed combining lab functions, pooling the about $30 million a year spent on drug testing, and recruiting future scientists. Foreman attended the ROAP conference.

“There is tremendous infrastructure work needing to be done,” Foreman said. “But there is not grass growing under our feet on this one.”

Fick said the RMTC is attempting to address testing for “milkshakes,” or TCO2, in racehorses. To this day, there is debate over which method is most effective in curtailing—or catching—a practice that can enhance performance and at the same time have therapeutic benefits. Fick also said officials must do more with out-of-competition to target blood-doping.

“EPO and TCO2 are two areas where we’re getting beat the ones who want to cheat,” Fick said.

The RCI was to discuss development of a model rule for TCO2 testing at its Dec. 8 meeting.

Thus far in 2008, the RMTC, which relies solely on contributions, had received almost $900,000, with about $1.2 million in cash on hand. In 2009, the organization hopes to raise about $700,000 from industry stakeholders, get $500,000 in grants, and receive $1 per start from racetracks and horsemen.

Much of the group’s time has been spent developing often-contentious threshold levels and withdrawal times for legal therapeutic drugs. Fick said the RMTC is just about ready to refocus on targeting prohibited designer substances.