Updated on 09/15/2011 1:33PM

Drugs remain the hot topic

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The University of Arizona Symposium on Racing plans to pick up next Wednesday where the Jockey Club left off in August - on the topic of drugs and drug-testing in racing.

The Symposium, which draws more than a thousand racing officials to Tucson each year, will begin with a 3 1/2-hour panel to discuss medications, drug testing, and the impact that drugs have on the racing product and its regulation. The panel has been split into two parts and will also include the presentation of a study on medication use that was prepared by students in the university's Race Track Industry Program, which puts on the conference.

The Symposium, the largest racing conference in the world, will run through Friday, although many of the attendees stay through Saturday for social events.

The opening panel on medication will further a topic that has been under debate since the Jockey Club Round Table in August, when a task force created by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association released a long-awaited report calling for the industry to push for improvements in drug-testing.

Since then, two national horsemen's groups, the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, have released proposals for uniform rules and improved testing, and those reports are expected to form the foundation of much of the discussion in Arizona. Both groups have stated that they released their proposals with the intention of getting feedback during the conference.

The focus on drugs this year is even more sharp due to a Tuesday morning panel called "Medication in the Racehorse: Separating Fact from Fiction." The panel is being sponsored by the American Association of Equine Practitioners as an adjunct to the Symposium. The AAEP also plans to gather a number of officials together following the panel for a closed-door session to discuss possible changes to medication policy.

In what is becoming a mainstay of the Symposium schedule, the NTRA will close out the conference's main panels on Friday morning with its year-end review. Now nearly five years old, the NTRA has typically used its two-hour session at the Symposium to review the previous year's projects and advance its priorities for the following year.

Other topics on the Symposium schedule include customer behavior, backstretch issues, racing technologies, and track surfaces. Additionally, afternoon workshops will address web journalism, regulation, and emergency planning.

for the DRF.com special Symposium on Racing coverage section.