Racetrack Vets Want Voice in Medication Discussions

A group of racetrack veterinarians have offered their own proposal for "universal race-day medication and testing," and have told the American Association of Equine Practitioners they want their collective voice heard during a medication summit planned for Dec. 4 in Tucson, Ariz.

A letter containing the names of 35 veterinarians, some of which are racetrack-based, espouses the use of therapeutic Class 4 medications, calls for threshold testing for Class 2 and Class 3 drugs, and suggests a ban on all Class 1, 2, and 3 medications within 48 hours of a race.

The guidelines were offered "to keep medication in the hands of veterinarians and not in the hands of lay persons who are not qualified for these procedures, and to better assure a level playing field for all horsemen as well as the betting public," the letter said.

The letter also says human athletes wouldn't be asked to participate in events "without the aid of electrolytes, anti- inflammatories, and other support therapy."

Dr. Jerry Johnson of Kentucky said the vets have other concerns, such as environmental contamination, which can create problems for horsemen, and public perception.

"The rumors are that every time somebody wins a race they're doping a horse," Johnson said. "Sometimes it's true, but most of the time it's not."

Johnson said there has been a "little lack of communication" between the AAEP and racetrack practitioners, who had considered forming a splinter group but decided to "stay involved and work the differences out."

Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, president of the AAEP, acknowledged receipt of the letter. He said the AAEP has added two more racetrack practitioners to the list of those who will participate in the medication summit.

"We're very sensitive to any perception of them feeling like they've been left out," McIlwraith said. "We're doing a lot to give them a voice."

Earlier this year, the AAEP formed a committee to study the use and effects of therapeutic medications commonly used in racehorses. That committee is expected to release some information during the summit, which will be held in conjunction with the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing.