National HBPA Hopes to Push Drug-Testing Needle

In a proactive measure, the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association issued a proposal for national drug-testing and therapeutic medication policies for substances known to affect the performance of racehorses. The organization hopes to generate dialogue in the industry before the American Association of Equine Practitioners' medication summit Dec. 4 in Arizona.

National HBPA representatives said the document is a proposal subject to debate. They wouldn't begin to speculate whether all or part of it would be adopted by the racing industry at some point.

The document proposes zero tolerance for performance-altering drugs; regulatory limits for foreign substances recognized by the AAEP as therapeutic; regulatory limits for 12 therapeutic medications and three environmental substances; Salix (or Lasix) control; guidelines for reporting chemical identifications; and continued research. It was devised by the National HBPA's executive and medication committees, officials said during a press conference at Keeneland.

The endeavor received a major endorsement from James E. "Ted" Bassett III, who retired as chairman of Keeneland on Wednesday. Officials with the horsemen's group said Bassett was instrumental in getting the plan off the ground.

"This is a powerful, positive initiative when you talk about race-day medication, which in the last 25 years has been debated and dissected with limited success," Bassett said. "When you talk about workable medication rules, who's impacted the most? The horsemen. It doesn't impact the national associations, the racing commissions, the racetracks, and the chemists. It impacts the people who are putting on the show day by day."

John Roark, the new president of the National HBPA, said it's all about horse owners.

"We've taken on a role the time is right for, and we're the ones who have to take it on because we represent the horsemen," he said. "When (trainer) John Ward ships a horse to another state, he shouldn't have to be a rocket scientist or a legal expert. We want to make it a uniform policy nationally, but we realize it's a work in progress."

Dr. Thomas Tobin of the University of Kentucky used the term "regulatory limits" in discussing thresholds for various medications. The limits are already in place in California, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio, Washington, Canada, and other jurisdictions.

The 12 therapeutics and their suggested limits are acepromazine (Class 3, 25 nanograms per milliliter in urine), albuterol (Class 3, 1 nanogram), bupivacaine (Class 2, 5 nanograms), butorphanol (Class 3, 10 nanagrams), clenbuterol (Class 3, 5 nanograms per milliliter in urine, 10 picograms per milliliter in serum), lidocaine (Class 2, 50 nanograms), mepivacaine (Class 2, 10 nanograms), pentazocine (Class 3, 50 nanograms), procaine (Class 3, 50 nanograms), promazine (Class 3, 50 nanograms), pyrilamine (Class 3, 50 nanograms), terbutaline (Class 3, 10 nanograms).

The three environmental contaminants and their suggested limits are benzoylecgonine (Class 1, 150 nanograms per milliliter in urine), caffeine (Class 2, 100 nanograms), and morphine (Class 1, 100 nanograms).

The National HBPA believes therapeutic medications are necessary to maintain the health and welfare of racehorses. Therefore, it says zero-tolerance testing is inappropriate for therapeutic medications. National testing standards for therapeutics, though, are the crux of the report issued Thursday morning.

On the subject of Salix, Tobin said the concern is that the diuretic can dilute urine, and thus affect test results. There is no intent, he said, to suggest who -- racetrack practitioners or state-hired veterinarians -- should administer the drug the day of a race.

Roark said the National HBPA didn't discuss its proposal with other major horsemen's groups such as the Thoroughbred Owners of California and the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. That, he said, was by design.

"They haven't been consulted yet," he said. "People have tried to put this together for years. We're not naïve; the other groups would have wanted to fine-tune this. We intend to work with other horsemen's groups, and we'd like to come out of the Symposium with a uniform policy we can at least look at."

The press conference was attended by racetrack officials, veterinarians, and trainers. Prominent owner William T. Young had planned to attend but couldn't for personal reasons. Top officials from other national organizations based in Lexington weren't on hand, though it wasn't known if they had received personal invitations. The press conference was previewed in a story that appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

In a prepared statement, Jim Gallagher, executive director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Racing Integrity and Drug Testing Task Force, said the proposal "is consistent with some of the recommendations in the task force report, namely the development of withdrawal guidelines ... for certain therapeutic medications which some racing states now use."

Ward, who attended the press conference, often ships from Kentucky to New York. He called the National HBPA proposal "well-thought out" and something that could lead to a "national uniform medication policy." Ward said it's a workable document for Class 1, 2, and 3 medications, and it leaves the door open for discussion on the Class 4 therapeutics.

Trainer William Fires said the proposal is a good step toward letting horsemen know what medications are legal, and providing the betting public with confidence.

Alex Waldrop, president of Churchill Downs, and Nick Nicholson, president of Keeneland, both said they are encouraged by the process.