Anne M. Eberhardt

Regulator: Stop Steroid Use Now

A national regulator said horsemen should voluntarily stop using steroids in horses.

A national regulator said uniform implementation of regulations for anabolic steroids in racehorses isn’t practical and suggested horsemen “come clean to the races” voluntarily beginning April 1. 

Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, said he agrees with the Racing and Medication Testing Consortium, which on Jan. 31 called for uniform, national implementation of a model rule on steroids by Dec. 31, 2008. However, he said compliance should begin as soon as possible given the fact many racing states already have begun the process of adopting the model rule, which was devised by RCI and the RMTC.

Some horsemen’s groups have said the model rule needs more work, and that piecemeal adoption of steroids regulations would create problems for horsemen who regularly ship from state to state. Officials also noted ongoing research to establish threshold levels and withdrawal times for four commonly used steroids won’t be completed until the summer.

“If the horsemen want a uniform date, they can voluntarily comply today with the model rule knowing that regulators will be implementing it over the coming months,” Martin said in a Feb. 1 statement. “They can set their own voluntary compliance date, and to the extent that they adhere to it, they will be addressing many of their concerns and lead the industry through positive action.”

Martin said the model rule, which regulates Federal Drug Administration-approved steroids, isn’t intended to stop anabolic steroid use in injured or recovering horses. The objective, he said, is to keep healthy horses off of steroid regimens.

The RMTC, in its Jan. 31 release, didn’t suggest steroids regulation be delayed, nor did horsemen who have called for a scientifically sound and practical model rule. The issue, however, has become quite political, and accusations in the industry have been flying for more than a week.

“The RMTC supports those states that have moved forward, and we understand rule promulgation is different from state to state,” RMTC chairman Dan Fick, also executive director of The Jockey Club, said in a statement. “It is our hope that the rule is universal no later than the end of this year, but we support every state that is moving expeditiously on this issue.”

States that are moving ahead on regulation include California, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In some states, the rule-adoption process is rather extensive, so regulations may not be in place until the middle of the year at the earliest.

“These states are all doing the right thing, despite those who spread misinformation in an attempt to stall and buy time,” Martin said.

No industry group has come out against regulation of steroids. The questions have focused on the functionality of the model rule.

The Maryland Racing Commission on Jan. 29 said it wanted more time to review the model rule and establish testing protocol. The commission still plans to have regulations in place by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Delaware is on schedule to have rules in place by the April 19 opening of Delaware Park, the state’s only Thoroughbred racetrack. Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission executive director John Wayne told the Wilmington, Del., News Journal a public hearing is scheduled for March 11, and the rules could be ready soon after.

Pennsylvania has said it plans to begin testing for steroids April 1. Several states in the Mid-Atlantic region told horsemen late last year to stop using steroids in healthy racehorses so the horses would be “clean” by the spring of 2008.