RCI Issues New Drug Classifications

The Association of Racing Commissioners International has classified or reclassified 46 foreign substances and has listed the administration of Erythropoietin, or EPO, as a prohibited practice at the recommendation of its Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee.

Lexington-based RCI authors the five-level drug classification system in use throughout the pari-mutuel industry and updates it when necessary. The 46 foreign substances include four Class 5s, four Class 4s, 22 Class 3s, 10 Class 2s, and six Class 1s.

Therapeutic medications are generally Class 3, 4, or 5. Class 1 drugs have no place in a racehorse's system by industry standards.

The Class 1s are:
--Benzylpiperazine, or BZP, a designer drug that serves as a stimulant or mild hallucinogen. "Since it is a stimulant, it has no therapeutic value, and no conceivable use in the racing horse," the RCI committee said in the classification report.
--Cathinone, found in dried or crushed leaves or as a powder and commonly grown in Africa and Arabia. It produces amphetamine- like effects such as higher blood pressure and respiratory rate.
--Codeine, which was upgraded from Class 2. The drug, commonly used in cough suppressants, poses a problem in that horses metabolize the drug to morphine, so it could have more of a narcotic effect. (Morphine is a Class 1 substance.)
--Donepezil, approved to treat Alzheimer's disease in humans. "There is no conceivable use for this drug in racing horses, and it may serve as a central nervous system stimulant," the committee said.
--Heroin, a highly addictive narcotic.
--Methcathinone, a synthetic derivative of cathinone that can be manufactured using materials from drug or hardware stores. It is similar to amphetamines, and occasionally has led to convulsions and death in humans.

The new "prohibited practice" designation will be made available to the industry for use, RCI president Lonny Powell said. Currently, the only practices identified are administration of EPO or Darbepoietin, "a son or cousin of EPO," he said.

"It must be implemented by jurisdictions as a rule," Powell said. "It is part of the RCI classification system, so jurisdictions will probably utilize it. Some racing associations are also looking at it as some sort of house policy."

There currently is no test for EPO, a drug used to treat anemia in humans.

The Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee makes recommendations to the full RCI board for approval. The committee meets two to four times a year, but its members work throughout the year along with RCI.

"It's very timely now given the fact most of us involved in the (committee) are involved in (Racing Medication and Testing Consortium)," Powell said. "One any given day, (medication- related) issues can take up 25% of my time to 100% of my time."