Mid-Atlantic Full Speed on Steroids

The Mid-Atlantic states are moving ahead with regulation of steroids.

Just hours after horsemen and scientists questioned the model rule regulating anabolic steroids in racehorses and suggested a national roll-out of the rules later this year or early next year is more practical, regulators in the Mid-Atlantic region announced they are sticking with plans to implement the regulations as quickly as possible.

Representatives of the state racing commissions in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia said Jan. 25 testing should be in place by late spring to early fall this year. In addition, the West Virginia Racing Commission has started the rule-making process, the joint release said.

“This is a very important issue facing our industry,” Peter Burnett, chairman of the Virginia Racing Commission and Association of Racing Commissioners International, which helped devise the model rule, said in a statement. “Industry leaders have had several meetings with Congressional members and staff members who have indicated they will be watching our efforts very closely on this issue. They are ready to step in if they are not satisfied that the states are appropriately dealing with the anabolic steroid issue.”

Regulators, chemists, laboratory representatives and horsemen’s groups in the Mid-Atlantic region have discussed regulation of steroids for more than two years. The release indicated Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia already have tested for the presence of steroids in horses’ systems and discovered cases of “stacking”--two to four different steroids--in the same sample.

During the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Medication Committee meeting Jan. 25 in New Orleans, officials said three of the four steroids being regulated can occur naturally in a horse’s system. Thus, it’s possible the steroids weren’t administered, which could result in unfair penalties for horsemen, they said.

The Mid-Atlantic regulators also said steroids were administered to racing horses as frequently as once a week, according to preliminary tests.

“These practices are abusive and must be stopped now,” Burnett said. “It’s time for regulators to take action. The Mid-Atlantic region is working together now in an effort to have the regulations and testing procedures in place for the summer race meets.”

Pennsylvania will begin testing Thoroughbreds April 1, and horsemen will have four months’ notice of the enforcement date of the model rule.

The effective date for Delaware’s rules on the use of anabolic steroids is April 10, just prior to the opening of Delaware Park.

“As regulators, we take our responsibilities very seriously,” Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission chairman Bernard Daney said in a statement. “Addressing the use and abuse of anabolic steroids is important to the integrity of the horse racing industry as well as the safety and welfare of the horses.”

Virginia has been testing for anabolic steroids for two years, but its racing commission is making modifications to conform to the model rule. The revised rules will be in place by the opening of Colonial Downs June 9.

New Jersey’s rule-making process begins Feb. 6, the joint release said. Assuming the process goes as expected and sufficient money is available for testing, the rules should be implemented by June or July to coincide with the Monmouth Park meet.

In New York, proposed rules are out for public comment. The New York State Racing and Wagering Board, working with its laboratory at Cornell University, said regulations should be in place by late summer or early fall.

Maryland Racing Commission executive director Mike Hopkins said the state’s steroid regulation rules will be in place by late summer.

“No live racing is conducted during the summer in Maryland,” Hopkins said. “During this time, our horses will be running at other Mid-Atlantic meets that will have the steroid rules in place, so they should be pretty well acclimated to racing without the benefit of anabolic steroids when racing resumes in August.”

The release made no mention of whether steroids will be tested for in urine or blood, nor were the withdrawal times or threshold levels noted. Horsemen and scientists during the Jan. 25 National HBPA session said it's imperative the tests be done on blood, and also important to have threshold levels and withdrawal times based on extensive scientific evidence.

In early January, Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which has affiliates in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York, said he supports regulation of steroids in racehorses but would prefer a national approach that could begin in 2009.