The TRA Board of Directors, after meeting in Baltimore in late May, has endorsed a number of safety measures intended to ensure only sound horses participate in North American Thoroughbred races. This policy calls for the implementation of uniform regulations regarding more restrictive use of a limited number of therapeutic drugs, a strong penalty structure for violators, and the elimination of treatment practices that could imperil the welfare of the horse when racing.
“The TRA Board identified those issues that most relate to the safety of horses and jockeys,” TRA president Chris McErlean said. “In many cases these issues have been studied by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) and the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) and rules already have been passed with the support of many of racing's national organizations. We could make tremendous strides quickly by having each state implement those rules. That is the objective of the TRA members.”
The TRA Board seeks implementation across the nation of rules enhancing equine safety by strictly and uniformly regulating the use of therapeutic drugs in racing. In particular, the TRA supports extending current pre-race-day withdrawal times for approved non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS, e.g. phenylbutazone), clenbuterol, and corticosteroids.
The TRA also endorsed a revision of the RCI's Model Rules on Medication to reduce the number of approved therapeutic medications to be used on horses in training and to increase significantly the penalty guidelines for prohibited substance violations and repeat violations of therapeutic medication rules. Furthermore, multiple penalties should be determined on a cross-jurisdictional basis, not state by state.
The RMTC already has begun work on a revision that would reduce the number of permitted drugs to the 26 therapeutic medications most commonly used to treat race horses and for which test thresholds and withdrawal guidelines already have been established. (Even minute trace residue of a drug can be detected long after there has been any pharmacological effect, so threshold levels ensure the drug has had no influence on the horse during the race.) Any trace level of any other drug during testing would constitute a violation and be subject to penalty.
TRA supports the existing RCI rule setting the threshold detection level at 2 micrograms (two trillionths per milliliter) for phenylbutazone as a result of the examining veterinarians' position that higher levels could hamper their ability to evaluate the soundness of a horse during pre-race exams. TRA also advocates pre-race examinations in every regulatory jurisdiction.
The threshold limit for clenbuterol should be 2 picograms (two millionths per milliliter) to prevent the misuse of the FDA-approved syrup for any muscle mass-building effects, as well as effectively preclude the use of imported higher-strength clenbuterol compounds. (The presence of compounded clenbuterol on racetrack grounds should be severely punished.) The RMTC is awaiting the conclusion of laboratory research later this summer to determine a recommended withdrawal time for adoption in a model rule. Similar research is nearing completion for approved anti-inflammatory corticosteroids.
Also identified as vital to the safety of the horse and rider is the adoption of the RCI model rule prohibiting shock wave therapy within 10 days of a race and the implementation of minimum standards requiring ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and RMTC accreditation for all testing laboratories.
The TRA urges all racing jurisdictions to immediately prohibit the use of race-day administration of adjunct bleeder medications.
The TRA Board also took the position any jurisdiction permitting race-day use of furosemide should implement the RCI model rule which restricts its administration to regulatory veterinarians or a commission designee, sets a minimum and maximum dosage, and has provisions for post-administration monitoring of horses identified as racing that day.
Summary of TRA Board Medication Policy Recommendations
- The RMTC and RCI are urged to pass a racing medication rule reducing the number of drug classifications to two – permitted therapeutics and prohibited – with the current number of approved-for-training medications reduced to 26, accompanied by much stronger uniform penalties, especially for repeat violations regardless of jurisdiction(s). All racing jurisdictions should adopt these revised medication rules by the end of 2012 or, if precluded by legislative or state procedural requirements, should be in the process of doing so by that time.
- All racing jurisdictions should eliminate the race-day administration of adjunct medications.
- All racing jurisdictions should immediately implement the RCI model rule regarding the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including a 2 (two) microgram threshold limit for post-race testing of phenylbutazone and the strict prohibition of the combination use of more than one of the permitted NSAIDs.
- All racing jurisdictions should immediately apply strict penalties for the use of compounded clenbuterol substances.
- All racing jurisdictions should implement a maximum threshold limit for detection of the FDA-approved clenbuterol of 2 (two) picograms with a recommended withdrawal time as established by RMTC later this summer.
- The TRA Board encourages the RMTC and RCI to expedite the passage of a model rule prohibiting the injection of corticosteroids into joints as soon as withdrawal guidelines are established by laboratory research this year.
- All testing laboratories should be accredited to ISO17025 standards by the end of the year and should participate in the RMTC lab testing accreditation program. The TRA also urges the RMTC to complete a manual of standard laboratory detection protocols to assure uniformity of results among the various laboratories.
- All racing jurisdictions should immediately implement the RCI model rule on shock wave therapy, prohibiting its use to no less than 10 days before a race.
- All jurisdictions should pass the RCI model rule regarding pre-race veterinary examinations of all horses on race day.
- Every jurisdiction also should implement the RCI model rule provisions requiring independent administration of furosemide by the state or official veterinarian or commission designee.
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