Official: Uniform Drug Policy Three to Five Years Away

Uniformity in medication and drug testing could be years away, a member of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium said April 1 during a California Horse Racing Board Medication Committee meeting.

Dr. Rick Arthur, a vice president and director of the Oak Tree Racing Association and a member of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, said a standardized medication and testing policy for the United States is three to five years away. Arthur said he is encouraged by the level of cooperation shown to date by various jurisdictions.

The committee is investigating threshold levels, appropriate withdrawal times, contaminants, and testing techniques. In addition, every drug under consideration will be given study, a process that will take more than two years, Arthur explained.

He said that once a policy is established nationwide, "you will solve 70 percent of your positive problems." He cited the recent case of trainer Bob Baffert, whose 3-year-old Kafwain was disqualified from his second-place finish in the Louisiana Derby last month because of the presence, due to conflicting rules in Louisiana and California, of an excessive amount of the bronchodilator clenbuterol.

"I think that with 37 states involved, getting everyone to agree on on standards is a problem, " Arthur said. "But if New York, California and a few others leading states take the lead, others will fall in line."

Arthur said he believes California's current standards are close to what should eventually be adopted.

"California is in the best position of any state to follow these recommendations," Arthur said. "Once they are made, I don't think there's going to be much the CHRB will have to do (to comply)."

In other business, Dr. Scott Stanley, director of the University of California-Davis Ken Maddy laboratory, said researchers are "six to 12 months" away from developing a comprehensive test for the presence of human erythropoeitin antibodies in racehorses. Efforts to date have been compromised by "false positives," he said.

Current methods are likely to require out-of-competition testing because EPO must be administered more than 48 to 72 hours in advance of racing in order to be effective, Stanley said.

"Nationally, this is a big issue," Arthur said. "It's really going to be to a problem with us in the future and a major concern for the (consortium)."