Indiana has become the first state to adopt model rules for regulating use of anabolic steroids in racehorses, but horsemen and others believe the move could be premature.
The Indiana Horse Racing Commission voted unanimously Sept. 27 to adopt the regulations, developed by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and endorsed by the Association of Racing Commissioners International. The rules are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2008.
The IHRC will establish concentration limits on four anabolic steroids. The model rules call for urinary concentrations to not exceed given levels for the following steroids: stanozolol (1 nanogram per milliliter), boldenone (15 ng/ml), nandrolone (1 ng/ml), and testosterone (20 ng/ml for geldings, and 55 ng/ml for fillies and mares). In addition, the presence of more than one of the four anabolic steroids at any time is prohibited.
While not included in the regulations, the IHRC also provided withdrawal times for the four Class 4 substances based on RMTC recommendations. Stanozolol is listed with a 30-day withdrawal time, and the other three anabolic steroids are listed with 45-day withdrawal times.
“I think racing regulators and most all industry stakeholders feel that the status quo is unacceptable,” IHRC executive director Joe Gorajec said. “I think that for the first time, regulators across the country have the resolve to finally address the anabolic steroid issue. The RCI model rules are currently the best way to address the issue.”
Gorajec recommended the adoption of an April 1, 2008, implementation date. Indiana Downs’ 2008 Thoroughbred meet is slated to begin April 25, and Hoosier Park will open for harness racing April 5. In addition, Gorajec suggested a 45-day grace period once the rules are implemented and screening begins as part of the IHRC’s post-race testing.
After the grace period has expired, violations will result in a $250 fine and forfeiture of purse, the same penalty a phenylbutazone overage would produce.
“There will be a transitional period where we will be testing for the substances and informing trainers if results exceed permissible levels,” Gorajec said. “We have experience with Class 4 drugs that are approved with certain threshold levels, and anabolic steroids will be in that category.”
During the Sept. 27 meeting, Indiana horsemen and representatives speaking on their behalf raised concerns about the RCI model rules. They also stated that if other states do not adopt similar rules, participation in Indiana’s racing program could suffer. Following the meeting, the Indiana Horsemen’s Coalition issued a release regarding the IHRC’s decision.
“We’re not against any and all regulation of anabolic steroids,” Randy Klopp, president of the Indiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, stated in the release. “But for Indiana to go in alone, with a set of regulations that are based on flawed assumptions and incomplete science, is a rush to bad judgment.”
Horsemen’s representatives have indicated they aren’t through attempting to make their case.
Others questioned the research behind the rules and argued they treat anabolic steroids as performance-enhancers when they are used for therapeutic purposes.
“I agree with proposed regulation with regard to anabolic steroids, but I think in the heat and light of this issue, we have gotten ahead of the science,” Dr. Steve Barker, a professor of veterinary medicine at Louisiana State University, told commissioners. “It is completely inappropriate to compare the use of anabolic steroids in humans and horses.”
Barker joined Dr. Thomas Tobin of the University of Kentucky, and Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida HBPA and a member of the RMTC, in making presentations. They indicated it may be premature to adopt regulations. Also, questions were raised over testing for steroids in urine, not blood.
RMTC executive director Scot Waterman, also a practicing veterinarian, offered another view: “The frequent, regimented, shotgun administration of anabolic steroids is not used to treat an illness, but to support performance-enhancement,” he said. “We need to protect our integrity and the dollars of the racing public that support us.”
Gorajec said he believes other racing jurisdictions will follow Indiana’s lead in the coming months. Gorajec produced a letter from Marc Laino, executive director of the Illinois Racing Board, stating the agency’s intention to implement similar rules in the near future to take effect Jan. 1, 2008.
“I do agree that it is to Indiana’s advantage if states to the north, south, east, and west adopt the same model rules,” Gorajec said. “It is important to have other racing commissions in the Midwest have a uniform policy on anabolics. To the extent that our neighbors continue to allow anabolics to be utilized and unregulated, it certainly could have an impact on horses shipping into the state.
“That’s why I’m hopeful our neighboring states will know that they won’t be alone if they choose to adopt the model rules. My expectations are that over the next six to 12 months, the majority of racing commissions will adopt the RCI rules.”
During a recent Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council meeting, officials said they had been asked by Indiana officials to move forward with regulation of steroids. The drug council, which makes recommendations to the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, took no action at the meeting.
Though drug council officials agreed regulation is necessary, there was no agreement on withdrawal times and threshold levels for steroids.
Iowa and Virginia regulate steroids under their own rules. They are the only two states to currently do so.