Medication Consortium Ramps Up Projects, Fund-Raising Plan

The national Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, which has succeeded in getting most or all of its model rules package for raceday medication and drug testing approved in a majority of jurisdictions, is officially seeking financial commitments from industry stakeholders to support ongoing integrity efforts.

The RMTC, which now has almost 40 board members, alternates, and advisers, has sent a letter outlining its funding plan, which would raise about $1.3 million for 2007. By 2010, given gradual increases in funding, more than $5 million would be available. When integrity projects paid for by the racing community in certain states are factored in, full funding would approach $8 million.

"We think that will be a significant statement to the industry, fans, and the federal government," Dan Fick, executive director of The Jockey Club and chairman of the RMTC, said during a March 17 briefing on the consortium's progress.

The RMTC hopes to get $5 per start from horsemen for all Thoroughbred, Standardbred, and Quarter Horse races in the United States. Racetracks would contribute in the manner: the horsemen's share multiplied by average purse and then divided by the national average for purses. In addition, tracks would get up to 75% in relief based upon how much money they've spent on backstretch security and laboratory testing.

(Funding is based on 25% participation in 2006, 50% in 2007, 75% in 2008, and 100% in 2009.)

Using Kentucky as an example, horsemen at Turfway Park, which has the most number of starts of any track in the state, would pay $11,641 in 2006, while the track would pay $2,259. At Keeneland, which has less than a third the number of starts at Turfway but almost four times the daily purse money, horsemen would pay $3,303 and the track $2,927.

Fick said the RMTC attempt to "level the playing field" for contributions based on number of racing days and purses.

The Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, with affiliates in five states, has pledged up to $250,000 this year--a maximum of $50,000 from each of its groups in Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the tracks at which it's based have been supporting the RMTC with per-start fees for several years.

The RMTC thus far has funded more than $600,000 in research on performance-enhancing substances, therapeutic medications, contaminants, and what executive director Dr. Scot Waterman calls "unknowns." Waterman said the RMTC has obtained about a dozen unknown substances, most of which are being marketed under names with no reference to specific drugs, and lab tests often concluded they're fakes.

"It could be food coloring added to something and then sold for good money," Waterman said. "Most of the time these products are counterfeit, with ingredients you could buy at (General Nutrition Center) for a buck fifty. There is a lot of junk being sold, and a fair amount of suckers buying this stuff."

The RMTC's focal point for this year is establishing threshold levels and withdrawal times for therapeutic medications regularly used in racehorses. Waterman said the objective is to have a manual such as the one in Canada that lists withdrawal times for horsemen and veterinarians and is applicable in all provinces.

With 47 such drugs used in racehorses, it's no small undertaking. Waterman said the RMTC first wants "clinical cutoffs" for each substance based on scientific evidence, and also plans to do more testing on a minimum of 20 horses actually in training rather than in-lab tests with only a handful of horses.

All or most of the RMTC model rules package has been adopted in almost 30 racing states, and two other states are close. Waterman said the handful of states that haven't begun the process haven't said they oppose the model rules.