Standardbred Official: RMTC Position Is ‘At Worst Very Deceptive and Misleading’

by | 12.06.2013 | 5:29pm

Following a release from the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium regarding the current thresholds for clenbuterol and corticosteroids in Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, U.S. Trotting Association president Phil Langley wrote an open letter to the RMTC chairman Alex Waldrop.

Standardbred horsemen have expressed concern over possible changes to the allowed levels of the drugs in their horses, which run more frequently than Thoroughbreds. The RMTC proposed a 14-day withdrawal time for the drug in all breeds, which essentially eliminates its use in trotters and pacers who frequently run as often as once a week.

Langley accuses Waldrop and the RMTC of intentionally confusing the issue to make it seem as though Standardbred horsemen want the current rules relaxed for their horses.

The letter is as follows: 

December 6, 2013


Mr. Alex Waldrop, Chairman

Racing Medication & Technology Consortium

c/o National Thoroughbred Racing Association

2525 Harrodsburg Road, Suite 510

Lexington, KY  40504


Dear Alex:

Your press release describing the United States Trotting Association's request at the Denver meeting is at best a misunderstanding and at worst very deceptive and misleading.

Dr. Benson and you knew full well what we asked for was for harness racing to continue to use clenbuterol and corticosteroids as it has for several years. There was no mention of more liberal usage and threshold levels. Plain and simple we asked for the status quo of the existing rules.

The changes proposed for these medications were solely fueled by Thoroughbred problems.

Clenbuterol has been used by harness horsemen and veterinarians as it was intended – post race as an aid to bronchial problems. RMTC's “proposed” regulations came about because the Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses decided to misuse it in place of anabolic steroids. USTA did not request any liberalization of the existing rules. Your description of our request is misleading and self-serving for RMTC.

In fact, the new RMTC proposed rule for a 14-day withdrawal time effectively eliminates the limited therapeutic use for Standardbreds who often race on a weekly basis and actually encourages steroidal abuse in Thoroughbreds.

Testimony given at the most-recent RMTC meeting suggested that Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse horsemen are “stacking” the drug in order to use it as a substitute for anabolic steroids because they have significantly more time between races.  The proposed rule will not eliminate the abuse of clenbuterol because Thoroughbreds can utilize a cycle of several weeks of intense treatment followed by 14 days off followed by several more weeks of intense treatment similar to the way that human athletes used steroids in cycles to avoid detection.

With regard to corticosteroids, our request was the same – status quo. It has not been unusual for veterinarians to administer some of the corticosteroid steroids therapeutically shortly after a race to help horses race to their ability a week later. This usage has been prescribed by qualified veterinarians and with the welfare of the horse being paramount.

Once again, your negative description of this practice is unwarranted. We certainly agree that Thoroughbreds need to be very careful in what they administer because history shows that breed of horse is very susceptible to catastrophic breakdowns. On the other hand, the history of harness horses shows no negative results from the current practices.

The issue is not that there is “no physiologic difference among the various racing breeds…to justify changing regulatory thresholds from those recently established by the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium (RMTC) for the use of corticosteroids and clenbuterol.”

The issue is the difference in the frequency in which the different breeds race, which dictates the need for different rules for proper use of these therapeutic medications.

We want no changes – no liberalization of rules – only to have our successful practices left alone.

What we really believe is the best answer is separate rules for each breed.




Phil Langley, President

United States Trotting Association

  • Hamish

    I feel for all the horses that are illegally doped or overmedicated with therapeutics. This is a public policy as well as an animal welfare issue. My question is, why are leaders in the Standardbred world so insensitive to “horse drugging” and the damage it is doing to all horses racing, both amongst fair minded industry competitors and the public at large?

    • Richard C

      Easy — there has hardly been a spotlight on the distant #2 in the sport of equine racing…..out of sight, out of mind, let the games continue.

      • Hamish

        If Standardbred racing went away, who would raise a stink, particularly if it’s a free for all at the races, the Wild West of horse racing? Look, it happened to Greyhounds……

  • pete

    “…..the welfare of the horses being paramount…..” I would like to see statistical evidence on this statement. If they have to be administered therapeutic drugs in order to race on their “weekly schedule” where does the welfare issue enter.

    Years ago, when Pompano Park instituted a 24 hour detention barn, it completely changed the trainer standings. The standardbred industry needs to take a stronger stand on the performance enhancing medication trainers administer. Just look at the miracle trainers. Hopefully the FBI is investigating.

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