Model Drug Policy Progresses; Research Projects Set

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium has made substantial progress on a model policy for the horse racing industry and also has allocated $275,000 for four research projects tied to its initiatives.

The consortium, during an almost eight-hour meeting Sept. 25 in Southern California, worked on the penalty portion of its proposed policy, which will be discussed at another meeting in November and presented to regulators Dec. 10 during a meeting in Tucson, Ariz. After that, it will be up to the Joint Model Rules Committee of the Association of Racing Commissioners International and the North American Pari-Mutuel Regulators Association to adopt the policy.

Dr. Scot Waterman, executive director of the consortium, said the model policy probably would be released in the first quarter of 2004 after regulators adopt the proposed rules.

Therapeutic medication remains a major issue. Waterman said there has been agreement on Salix, non-steroidals, and anti-ulcer drugs, all of which already are governed by most jurisdictions. There are, however, many, many more drugs that figure to keep the consortium busy for some time.

Because of that, the model policy will be a document subject to revision even after its release. Waterman said the consortium is comfortable with that fact.

"We don't necessarily need to wait for the entire policy to be done," Waterman said.

While work with regulators continues, the consortium also will work with the scientific community. At the Sept. 25 meeting, for instance, there was discussion about one therapeutic substance about which there was conflicting data, Waterman said. He declined to identify the drug.

"The worst of the first phase is over," Waterman said. "In the next phase, we'll be dealing with therapeutic medications, drug by drug."

The research projects won't be identified until all researchers who submitted proposals are notified, but Waterman said one is for development of tests for substances of abuse, one is for tests for environmental contaminants, and two would support and enhance development of model rules.

Waterman this year has been visiting with various industry associations to discuss a long-term funding method for the consortium, but as of Sept. 25, there was no formal plan. Waterman said there would be a "big push" in devising a funding method in 2004.

"I've got to go back and gut the original business plan and rewrite it," Waterman said. "That would then become the document to sell a funding formula."

In July at the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association convention, Waterman discussed one option whereby horsemen and racetracks would kick in funds via assessments on the top four finishers in each race. The consortium would like to raise $2 million to $3 million a year to support its initiatives.