The Association of Racing Commissioners International is reassessing its policy supporting race-day administration of furosemide, but also indicated much needs to be done before any change is made.
RCI president Ed Martin, addressing a Senate committee studying performance-enhancing medication in horse racing July 12, noted the current policy was adopted about 20 years ago because of concerns about equine welfare. Furosemide, also called Salix or Lasix, controls exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging.
RCI and many other groups have endorsed the administration of Salix by regulatory veterinarians only. Various racing commissions, however, have said they don't intend to move quickly to follow the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which approved a three-year phase-out of race-day Salix in graded and listed stakes.
"RCI has opened a reassessment of the issue to determine if the public-policy exemption that exists allowing a race-day administration to treat EIPH (exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage) should continue," Martin said. "The RCI Regulatory Veterinarian Committee is currently assessing issues pertaining to changes in body weight and electrolyte balance resulting from a furosemide administration to determine if there are any adverse effects that might also need to be balanced with concerns over EIPH.
"The challenge for policymakers, be they state or federal, must be to make an informed decision on this issue that can be scientifically justified."
Martin acknowledged state regulators "are attempting to sort this issue out" and would like to see more research into Salix.
"In general we do not like the idea of any medication being given a horse on race day, but we must be careful that any public policy change does not adversely affect the health of a generation of horses now racing," Martin said.
The proposed Interstate Horse Racing Improvement Act, which deals with medication and penalties for violators, would ban any performance-enhancing drug; no medication, including Salix, could be administered.
Martin said the RCI Model Rules Committee in late July will consider a "modification" that would "facilitate creation of Lasix-free racing opportunities for those owners who do not believe in its use yet use it anyway."
Anti-Salix racehorse owners claim they continue to use the drug because it enhances performance and most horses race on it.