RCI President Calls for Olympics Drug List

RCI President Calls for Olympics Drug List
Photo: File Photo

The president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International is calling upon the Olympic Games to release the names of athletes who will be performing in London with performing-enhancing drugs in their systems.

During his testimony before a U.S. Senate Committee examining the use of medications in horse racing earlier this month, RCI president Ed Martin said the World Anti-Doping Agency has a little-known policy that permits Olympic athletes to compete with a variety of performance-enhancing substances in their bodies. Martin said that is something not allowed in horse racing, except for a treatment to mitigate bleeding.

“Olympic fans won’t know who, in what events, or the drugs in use, as there is no disclosure,” Martin said in a July 24 release, referring to it as an “Olympic-sized deception.”

In a release, RCI said there is a perception that the Olympics are drug free and that “media accounts have largely ignored WADA’s mandate of a process where athletes can obtain a Therapeutic Use Exemption allowing them to compete with prohibited performance-enhancing substances. An Olympic athlete is free to submit an application supported by their doctors and approvals are largely controlled by his or her home Olympic committee.”

“If this standard were applied in horse racing, one could argue it would be comparable to allowing a horse owner to grant an exemption for some of his horses to run on drugs,” Martin said in the release.

The RCI said the 2010 annual report posted on the website of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the most requested exemption was for beta-2 agonists (i.e., clenbuterol), followed by stimulants. Exemptions were requested for anabolic agents, corticosteroids, narcotics, hormones, and platelet-rich plasma. The RCI said the USADA granted 155 of the requests, while rejecting 43.

“In horse racing there is no process to allow for therapeutic use exemptions,” Martin said. “The trainers of horses found to have such substances in their system on race day are found to be in violation and sanctioned. The only exception is for a therapeutic medication to mitigate the effect of exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage. Unlike the Olympics, there is disclosure in racing and horses so treated are listed in the program for everyone to see.”   

In addition, according to RCI, the World Anti-Doping Code allows an athlete to miss a test without consequences, with violations only after the third-such missed test.

“In 2010 U.S. racing regulators sent over 330,000 samples to the testing laboratory.” The RCI president continued. “(Of those) 99.5% were found to have no prohibited substance despite racing regulators testing for more substances at deeper levels than any other sport. When a medication violation was found, the substance was more often than not therapeutic and theoretically might have been allowed if racing emulated the WADA Olympic standards.”

According to the USADA’s annual report for 2010 there were 38 drug rule violations out of 8,031 tests, roughly the same as in horse racing, according to the RCI release.

“The big exception is that racing does not have an undisclosed exemption for therapeutic performance enhancements so not everything being used in the Olympics is disclosed,” Martin said. “When you look at the facts, the perception that next week’s games will be drug free and horse racing is drug ridden is an Olympic-sized deception. The challenge is real for both, but horse racing’s transparency and hard line against virtually all performance-enhancing therapeutics may explain why some think racing’s problem is bigger than it is.”

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