05/22/2012 1:44PM

California Horse Racing Board to discuss clenbuterol ban

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Clenbuterol, a bronchodilator sometimes used to build muscle mass, may be prohibited to appear in post-race tests for Thoroughbreds in California as early as this summer.

The California Horse Racing Board is scheduled to discuss the issue at its monthly meeting at Betfair Hollywood Park on Thursday. The board may enact guidelines prohibiting the use of clenbuterol in the days preceding a race.

Currently, clenbuterol is allowed to appear in post-race tests of Thoroughbreds up to a limit of 5 nanograms in urine and 25 picograms of blood. Trainers face penalties if horses test in excess of those levels.

Thursday’s discussion occurs at a time when state regulatory agencies across the nation have acted to restrict, or are holding discussions on limiting, the use of raceday medications. In February, the New Mexico State Racing Commission enacted a 12-month ban on clenbuterol. Racing commissions in Kentucky and New York are planning discussions about phasing out the use of the bleeder medication Lasix.

If the California racing board votes to fully prohibit the use of clenbuterol, the rule could take effect within a few months, after horsemen are allowed time to modify their use of the medication.

The board is allowed by rule to suspend the use of a drug on race day, by breed, track, or race, provided a public notice on the matter is held and horsemen’s organizations are notified.

There is a precedent for such a ban in the state. Since October, clenbuterol has not been allowed for raceday use in Quarter Horse races at Los Alamitos. Quarter Horse trainers have been urged to take their horses off the medication 30 days in advance of a race to be certain there is no trace level of the medication in horses’ systems on race days.

The ban was enacted after brands of clenbuterol not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were being used on Quarter Horses, primarily as a muscle-building agent.

At the racing board’s track safety and medication committee meeting last month, racing board equine medical director Rick Arthur said that there had been no clenbuterol positives in Quarter Horses at Los Alamitos in a six-month period beginning in October. He said there had been 14 violations at Los Alamitos from July 2010 to October 2011.

There is expected to be testimony at Thursday’s meeting for no change to the rules pertaining to Thoroughbreds. Veterinarians have written to the racing board in recent weeks, stating the therapeutic benefits of clenbuterol use within current thresholds.