Medication Consortium to Form Business, Funding Plans

The newly christened Racing Medication and Testing Consortium said May 1 it has formed three task forces to focus on developing an organizational and business plan, scientific research priorities, and a model medication policy. The group met for the first time in Tucson, Ariz., last December during the Racehorse Medication Summit organization by the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Industry representatives met for about six hours in Louisville just four days before the Kentucky Derby, and pledged to hold another face-to-face meeting in July. Spokesman said 26 of the original 32 people who met in Arizona were on hand for the Kentucky meeting, which didn't produce a firm funding plan or specific medication policy. Still, they were encouraged by the results, and hope to have a business plan in place by the end of June.

"We made a lot of progress," said Jim Gallagher, the New York Racing Association executive who once headed the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Racing Integrity and Drug Testing Task Force. "I think we've found some meat to put on the skeletal system."

The spokesmen after the meeting, held at the Executive Inn, were Gallagher; Dr. Scot Waterman, who now oversees the NTRA task force; and Dr. Robert Lewis, a Texas veterinarian and former president of the AAEP. They indicated the session was primarily educational in nature, especially in regard to a list of therapeutic medications used in horse racing. They also said the group stuck by its suggestion late last year that only furosemide (Salix) be permitted for race-day use.

"There wasn't any hay, oats, and water preaching going on in here," Lewis said. "Therapeutic products are here for a reason, and I think people understand that. This group really wants to get down to the details and the facts. I'm happy with the direction this is taking."

Some of the therapeutic drugs discussed were clenbuterol, banamine, and Bute. Talk focused on things such as thresholds, cut-off times, and testing. The spokesmen said no decisions were made to seek bans on any therapeutic medications currently in use. There is interest, they said, in staying ahead of the curve when it comes to new drugs on the market, but also recognition such research comes at a cost.

The organizational and business task force will address funding. Gallagher said per-start fees for all breeds, as well as racetrack participation, were discussed, but nothing was decided upon. Waterman said the NTRA task force has enough money to get through the end of 2002.

Task force members are Gary Biszantz of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, Alan Foreman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, jockey Chris McCarron, Terry Meyocks of NYRA, Lonny Powell of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, Hans Stahl of The Jockey Club, John Van de Kamp of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, Alex Waldrop of Churchill Downs, and representatives from the American Quarter Horse Association and Harness Tracks of America.

Members of the scientific research task force are Drs. Rick Arthur, Ted Hill, George Maylin, and Rick Sams; Paul Berube of the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau; trainer Richard Mandella; and a representative from the AQHA.

The task force that will address model rules includes Lewis, trainer John Ward, and representatives of organizations such as the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, North American Pari-Mutuel Regulators Association, United States Trotting Association, RCI, and the THA.

Gallagher and Lewis said there has been a meeting of the minds between the Interstate Drug Testing and Research Program and the Testing Integrity Program, two groups of chemists that have been at odds in the past. Both chemists and veterinarians sit on advisory committees formed by the AAEP earlier this year.

When asked if specific states and medication policies were addressed at the May 1 meeting, Lewis said they were not, "other than subtle references" to them. Lewis also said the various medication proposals floated by a number of groups -- the National HBPA, the Kentucky HBPA, the THA, and The Race Track Practitioners, for instance -- were not discussed specifically but will be on the table when the task force attempts to strike a balance.

"Our hope is that the process has been inclusive enough and cautious enough so people that may need to make changes...are comfortable enough with it," Waterman said.