Public Release of Drug Proposal Hinges on Regulators' Response

Though regulators on Dec. 10 will examine a proposal for a national medication and drug-testing policy, release of the document to the public hinges on how well it is received during the meeting.

Dr. Scot Waterman, executive director of the national Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, said every racing commission received an invitation to the meeting, to be held in Tucson, Ariz. The meeting is scheduled for noon to 3 p.m. Mountain time, but could go longer, he said.

The meeting will be closed, even to the 25-member consortium. Waterman will facilitate the session, during which a model policy will be unveiled. Though an official statement never was released, the consortium proposal is widely believed to call for a Salix-only rule on race day.

"The assumption is once we take the model policy to regulators, it will become public policy," said D.G. Van Clief Jr., who chairs the consortium, "but we want to give regulators time to consider it before it becomes a matter of public debate. We'll probably coordinate a release soon after regulators see it."

The Joint Model Rules Committee of the Association of Racing Commissioners International and the North American Pari-Mutuel Regulators Association probably will "tweak" the language to make the policy a rule, Waterman said. Therefore, release time for the document isn't set in stone.

Veterinarians and trainers in Kentucky, where multiple therapeutic medications are permitted on race day, have protested a Kentucky Racing Commission plan to adopt the consortium proposal. Meanwhile, racing jurisdictions in the Mid-Atlantic region will continue using "adjunct bleeder medications" along with Salix even if the national policy is adopted.

Mid-Atlantic regulators have been meeting for years on medication and testing issues, and for the most part have adopted similar medication rules to facilitate the shipping of horses from state to state.

Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and a member of the consortium, said the national group has taken a position against use of multiple non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) on race day such as those used in Kentucky, but not against adjunct bleeder medications such as those used in Maryland.

"They're treated differently than the NSAIDs," Foreman said. "There is a growing body of evidence that (use of multiple) NSAIDs is detrimental to a horse's health. The consortium has not taken a position on the adjuncts, but they're something it needs to tackle. The question is whether (use of them) is scientifically based or not. The Mid-Atlantic decided to allow states to continue with current policies while research is being done."

It is believed adjunct medications don't interfere with testing, Foreman said, though research into that and their ability to treat bleeding continues.

At a Nov. 18 public hearing in Kentucky, trainer Tom Amoss said NSAIDs such as Bute and Banamine "are no different than Motrin or aspirin." Amoss said the medications alleviate the "aches and pains associated with racing" and aren't performance-enhancing.

Other trainers and veterinarians supported his contention. They also said elimination of race-day therapeutic medication in Kentucky would create health problems for racehorses, reduce field size, and open the state to "cheating" when individuals seek an edge they currently don't need in the state.