Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board.

Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Regulation of Steroids to be Recommended

By Tom LaMarra and Deirdre B. Biles
Members of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium are expected to recommend regulation of anabolic steroids in racehorses, but the timetable for the regulations remains up in the air.

RMTC officials earlier in the year said they hoped to have a policy by the end of this year.

There has been some division over the issue, in part because Federal Drug Administration-sanctioned anabolic steroids are widely used in racehorses and are listed as Class 4 therapeutic drugs. There is some support in the industry to have anabolic steroids reclassified to a Class 3 substance under Association of Racing Commissioners International guidelines, but it remains to be seen if that recommendation will be issued and regulators will embrace it.

The use of steroids in racehorses is regulated in other countries.

"The RMTC is going to recommend that anabolic steroids be regulated in racing," Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, said Dec. 2 during the "Purchase Exam at Public Auction Forum" at the American Association of Equine Practitioners convention in San Antonio, Texas.

When asked about regulation of steroids in horses sold at auction, Arthur said: "The feeling is the marketplace will demand it. One will have to follow the other."

Arthur also said the technology is available to regulate anabolic steroids through blood testing rather than urine testing.

"This whole area is going to be very controversial," said Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and a member of the RMTC. "The sense was to begin discussing (the steroid issue) with the industry and start educating people. I think what they're going to do is start a dialogue (at the symposium).

"I don't believe anybody is prepared to deal with anabolic steroids in an educated way."

Another RMTC member said: "We are going to eventually regulate (steroids)--no doubt about that." But he said he doubts officials would adopt a zero-tolerance policy.

In a related matter, Foreman said the lack of uniform withdrawal times for therapeutic substances remains an issue, and jurisdictions in the Mid-Atlantic region are prepared to take action.

"The consortium is moving very slowly on this, and we were prepared to do something a few years ago," Foreman said. "For the benefit of horsemen in our region, we may move forward with it in the next few months."

The RMTC has commissioned research to set withdrawal times for various therapeutic drugs.