Call Goes Out to Fund Medication Consortium

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium expects to have enough money to carry it through 2006, but an official with the group indicated it's imperative more racetrack and horsemen's associations commit funds to the organization.

The consortium, which met Oct. 16-17 in Lexington, received about $2.5 million from member organizations, including a few racing associations, from 2003-05. Next year, it will implement a voluntary funding formula based on $5 per start from owners and horsemen, and matching funds from tracks based on the average purse per race, regardless of breed. The consortium hopes for 25% participation in 2006, and 100% by 2009.

Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association affiliates in Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York have contributed $250,000 to kick-start the program. The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents horsemen at Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park, has been contributing for a few years.

THA chief executive officer Alan Foreman, a member of the consortium, issued a challenge to horsemen's groups and racetracks to adopt the funding plan. He issued a similar challenge more than two months ago at the Jockey Club Round Table conference but said little progress has been made since that time.

Foreman said the update on the consortium's progress in obtaining support for uniform medication rules was dwarfed by the "surprise announcement" that The Jockey Club and Keeneland were backing a California-based Olympic-style laboratory that would develop tests for drugs used in racehorses. About $3 million is needed to get the lab up and running.

"That totally obscured the thrust of our big announcement at the Round Table," Foreman said Oct. 22. "It just got buried, and now they're trying to get the momentum back. I think they realize it got lost in the shuffle."

When asked what would happen if not enough money is raised for the consortium in the next few years, Foreman said: "If there's no money, there's no research. We've got enough money in the bank to tide us through 2006, but it becomes a problem after that."

The funding will allow the consortium to increase research, enhance security, develop best practices for labs, and perhaps support a reference lab, according to a consortium release.

Foreman said he believes lobbying racing commissions to adopt regulations requiring financial contributions isn't the way to go. "I don't think I'd be in favor of it," he said. "The funding mechanism we're looking at right now would be a phase-in."

The consortium during its Oct. 16-17 meeting also commissioned Dr. Rick Sams of Ohio State University to develop an action plan to establish withdrawal times for therapeutic medications. The guidelines are not uniform from state to state, and some states have no withdrawal times.

Dr. Scot Waterman, executive director of the consortium, said the group must take recommendations from its scientific advisory committee based on peer-reviewed research and hopefully reach consensus on withdrawal guidelines. If not, additional research would be necessary, he said.

Foreman said racing states in the Mid-Atlantic region developed a list of withdrawal guidelines several years ago, but they weren't issued in deference to the consortium, which at the time was working to develop model rules for race-day medication. More recently, conflict in Kentucky over a new race-day medication policy moved withdrawal guidelines to the front burner, he said.

"It was only natural for the consortium to focus on withdrawal guidelines," Foreman said. "Rick Sams had already worked with the Mid-Atlantic region on withdrawal guidelines. I think 90% of what was developed by the Mid-Atlantic could be adopted. By the end of January (2006), we may be able to roll out withdrawal guidelines."

The consortium, which has 25 racing industry stakeholders among its members, has scheduled its next meeting for Jan. 23, 2006, in Los Angeles.