Medication, Regulatory Matters on Front Burner

While the Thoroughbred industry makes an aggressive push toward unification on the issue of drug testing and medication, two organizations involved in the regulation of racing -- the Association of Racing Commissioners International and the National Association of Pari-Mutuel Regulators -- continue to go their separate ways.

Lonny Powell, president of the RCI, said during his organization's annual convention in New York April 11-15 that his efforts to bridge the gap with NAPRA have not been successful.

"My hope is today, though I'm not nearly as optimistic as I once was, that we would ultimately get together and form a body representing both groups," Powell said. "We have tried every high road approach possible on the issue."

Powell, serving his first year as head of RCI, is attempting to clean up the regulatory mess that developed in the later stages of the 15-year presidency of Tony Chamblin, who stepped down last June. A number of state racing commissions split from RCI and formed NAPRA in 1997.

Powell proposed that a combined RCI/NAPRA panel on medication at each organization's annual convention could be a first step toward. According to Powell, NAPRA was not interested. "It would have shown the industry that this nonsensical situation had an opportunity to fade away," he said.

Meanwhile, other industry groups are progressing on medication issues. Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, representing the American Association of Equine Practitioners, said there will be a May 1 meeting in Louisville, Ky., to follow up from the AAEP's Racehorse Medication Summit, held at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing last December. The meeting will include discussions on the work of recently appointed veterinary and chemist advisory committees.

Dr. Scot Waterman, head of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Racing Integrity and Drug Testing Task Force, said some state budgets could derail efforts for uniform withdrawal guidelines and decision levels for therapeutic drugs. "State regulators can play a very important role in funding," Waterman told the RCI attendees.

Commissioners were told that horse owners may end up funding an organization that guides drug testing through a fee of $5 per start for Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, and $3 for Standardbreds. The concept, which is gaining momentum with numerous industry groups, would have raised $4.7 million last year.