The New York State Gaming Commission Sept. 24 passed several rule amendments related to equine medication, including further restrictions on the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and a total ban on stanozolol, an anabolic steroid.
The NYSGC also amended rules regarding the role of veterinary technicians on the backstretch and a requirement for continuing education for trainers each year.
NSAIDs already are banned on race day in most racing jurisdictions. In New York racehorses can be administered multiple NSAIDs up to 48 hours before a race, but the new NYSGC rule, which could take six months to implement, allows only one such drug to be used in the week leading up to a race.
Members of the commission expressed concern that multiple NSAIDs administered outside of the current 48-hour permissible range can confound testing results and result in concentrations that could suggest the medications have been administered within 48 hours. The proposal also stems from the concern that multiple NSAIDs administered outside the 48-hour range can interfere with the ability to detect prohibited doses given within 48 hours of racing, and in turn possibly put horses and riders at risk on race day.
In other states regulators have said the presence of NSAIDs can hinder regulatory veterinarians performing pre-race exams.
The amended New York rule will be placed in the state register for comment for six months, after which it can be approved by the NYSGC.
In another drug matter, the NYSGC proposed two testing threshold levels for the naturally occurring mineral cobalt. Officials said one, at 50 nanograms per milliliter, would reveal intentional overuse of the substance, while the second, at 300 nanograms per milliliter, would incur a blood-doping penalty.
The continuing education requirement calls for four hours a year for trainers and assistant trainers. NYSGC equine medical director Dr. Scott Palmer noted that New York's trainers have a variety of continuing education options available to them, including regular programs at Cornell Ruffian Equine Specialists near Belmont Park, backstretch programs conducted by Palmer himself, and online modules provided by The Jockey Club.
The requirement will apply to all trainers based in New York or who start more than 12 horses in the state each year. Trainers based out of state who race regularly in New York will be given credit for continuing education completed elsewhere. Licensing will be contingent on trainers' meeting the four-hour annual requirement.
The NYSGC tabled a proposal that would eliminate automatic post-race testing of all claimed horses at commission expense. The regulatory agency proposed that testing of claimed horses be done at the request and the expense of those who claim the horse on the grounds that, even though claims can be voided following a positive test for a prohibited substance, few owners exercise that option.
Calling the expense "burdensome" at approximately $80 per test, given the number of horses claimed each year in New York, and noting that New York is the only jurisdiction to conduct automatic tests of claimed horses at state expense, the NYSGC executive director Robert Williams said if the proposed amendment passed, the commission would use the money saved to fund additional medication initiatives.
In the absence of specific information, such as how much money the NYSGC spends on testing claimed horses, commissioners voted to return to the proposal at a future meeting.
Meanwhile, the long-awaited report on the NYSGC investigation into trainer Steve Asmussen was originally scheduled to be released Sept. 24, but it will wait for another day. The report, spurred by an undercover video shot by an investigator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, still isn't ready, and officials had no timetable for its release.
The NYSGC launched the investigation in March 2014 when the PETA video was released.
The NYSGC didn't offer a proposed date for the release of two reports on equine injuries: one on fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in 2014 and the other on fatalities at Aqueduct Racetrack in late 2014 and early 2015. Though the commission earlier this summer said the Saratoga report would be released during this year's racing meet, a spokesperson said Sept. 24 only that the reports would be released "very soon."