08/02/2014 2:38PM

Horsemen's groups oppose Lasix ban

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Rick Violette, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said Saturday that a ban on Lasix, as proposed in a statement released on behalf of a number of prominent trainers Friday, would not “benefit the horse, the owners, or the horseplayers” while also “jeopardizing” the survival of all the small racing stables currently operating in this country.

D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher were among the 25 trainers who said they would support a gradual phase-out of the legal race-day use of furosemide, a diuretic used throughout the United States to mitigate bleeding in the lungs.  That proposal has continually met with staunch opposition from horsemen around the country, including the NYTHA.

“The position of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association has not wavered,” Violette said in a statement Saturday. “The horses have not changed. Most horses suffer from exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, and Lasix is the only scientifically proven, truly effective treatment we have to protect them. Absent a researched and reasonable alternative to protect horses from EIPH, NYTHA is vehemently against any ban on Lasix.”

Violette added that the ban on Lasix could put many small trainers out of business.

“The majority of horsemen don’t have the multiples of horses to fill empty stalls, at will, if one or more of their horses need an extended time to recover from a bleeding episode,” Violette said. “A ban on Lasix would become a critical factor in the survival of small outfits.”

Phil Combest, president of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, who operates a modest stable himself based at Calder, spoke on behalf of his association in response to Friday’s statement to phase out the use of Lasix in the United States.

“Lasix is the only scientific means of controlling EIPH and thus allowing a horse to perform up to his or her highest potential,” said Combest. “Lasix doesn’t make any horse run faster. It is not a performance-enhancing drug. It is a performance-“allowing” drug.  The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has consistently and adamantly opposed a ban on Lasix and will continue to do so.

"To not have Lasix available for horses competing in the sweltering heat and humidity of non-winter Florida racing is a recipe for disaster. The FHBPA strongly supports a logical and rationally configured national uniform medication program. But it remains our firm position that race-day Lasix must be a part of such a program until something better comes along.”

Pletcher explained Saturday why he’s had a change of heart on the Lasix issue.

“I felt like we need to make a proactive move to try to improve,” said Pletcher. “I think that American racing is extremely clean, and it’s not perceived as being as clean as it is. I would like to see the perception improve because I think in reality, we’re all trying to do what’s best for racing and promote the sport for the long term.”

– additional reporting by David Grening

Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
There is nothing wrong with Lasix, nothing. To call it a performance enhancing drug, I don't think so.
John Cornwell More than 1 year ago
Anybody opposing the Salix ban is NOT a horseman, and DRF should not describe them as such.
Diane Hain More than 1 year ago
Sigh. Yet again, the rest of the world does NOT allow Lasix. Their horses are not bleeding to death on their tracks. Their small trainers and owners are still in business. Furthermore, their horses do not suffer from the effects of high doses of diuretics such as calcium depletion which weakens bones, potassium depletion which weakens muscles and causes muscle spasms, and/or sodium depletion which can cause muscle spasms and seizures. Also there is NO SCIENTIFIC PROOF that Lasix does work to prevent EIPH. I suppose Mr. Violette has never heard the terms "adjunct bleeder medication" or "bleed thru the Lasix" huh? But should I be wrong I invite Mr. Violette to produce a copy of the SCIENTIFIC STUDY proving the effectiveness of Lasix. I also invite him to produce a scientific study showing that repeated Lasix use does not damage the health and soundness of the horse - another study I am 99% certain does not exist. I'm sure he will again quote the small sample study on a rash of breakdowns at Aqueduct in 2011-2012. The sample size was 21 horses, which is certainly not anywhere near large enough to be considered a valid sample! Furthermore, witness this quote from page 64 of said study: "With respect to furosemide, the Task Force will not offer an opinion on the industry’s current divisive debate on the use of furosemide to reduce the prevalence and severity of EIPH. The Task Force was specifically asked to look at whether the use of furosemide was a possible contributing factor in the fatalities that are the subject of this investigation and we will confine our comments to that question." To Mr. Combest, all I can say is further dehydrating a horse on a sweltering hot summers day can not possibly be healthy, and I invite him to take a human equivalent dose of Lasix at the same time as his horse, and not be allowed to drink for as long as the horse is not allowed. When he comes to in the ER I am thinking he may then have a different opinion.
otterbird More than 1 year ago
In Europe they train on Lasix. They don't permit it on race day because of concerns it's performance enhancing, not because they think it doesn't work. If they didn't think it didn't work, they wouldn't train on it. Your argument that horses have been known to bleed through Lasix makes no sense. People are known to still be in pain even after taking an NSAID or an aspirin. Does that mean NSAIDs and aspirin are overall ineffective? Of course not. Trainers have known for decades that dehydration has a protective effect on the lungs; pre-Lasix they would take water away from a horse 24 to 48 hours before a race. You need to offer up a scientific study that repeated use of Lasix "damages the health and soundness of the horse." Because you're offering up as much speculation as you accuse Violette of doing. For what it's worth, it's also not the way science approaches things. A scientific study might conclude that there is no evidence Lasix "damages the health and soundness of a horse" but will never say "does not" because in science you can't prove a negative.
Jimmy Pam Walker More than 1 year ago
I am a retired PBRbull rider,several years ago the PBR banned steriods,as well as any and all preformance enhancing DRUGS for all BULLS used at all PBR events,In the years following the BULLS have gotten BETTER and BETTER and there lasting much much,longer.Befor the ban BULLS would only a few years NOW there staying at a top preforming BEAST for years an years///////////TAKE CARE OF OUR STARS OF THE TRACK
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr Violette speaks for the scores of mid and lower tier trainers who've filled their barns with horses who are not fully sound. As the use of therapeutic drugs increased, our breeding stock began to pass on unsoundness to succeeding generations. Now, we have tens of thousands of horses in the US who probably can't compete without the drugs. If we're unsuccessful at totally banning race day medications, we could at least prohibit their use in all Graded Stakes. If we could put that limited ban in place, it would mean that serious bleeders and other horses with significant infirmities would no longer be racking up shining race records and going off to stud to pass along their weak genes. Perhaps, over time, we could restore the breed in this country to what it once was.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
That's the most intelligent solution I've heard or read about to satisfy both the large scale breeders and the blue collar folks trying to make a living. One question...what happens in the case of a horse that can compete at top levels but needs salix to do so? Let them compete against the non salix graded winners but not allow them to breed?? Yiu can't ban them from graded competition simply due to them bleeding without lasix. Orb never would have won The Derby if that's the case. Think Phipps would give up winning those types of races??? Or other big names? Another catch 22.
james More than 1 year ago
Thomas Cook - There was a time in my lifetime when geldings weren't allowed to compete in some top level stakes reserved for colts and horses. The idea was to advance and improve the breed and to use these races to do so. Bleeders and infirm horses aren't going to do much to pass along good genes to future generations. The old guard like the Phipps controlled racing then. I'd think they would be the first ones to support a race day drug ban.
Steve Ulen More than 1 year ago
Rick Violette - I'm sorry but you make no sense. Horses should not on any terms for any reason run on drugs (self enhancing or not). If they can't run w/o them, they shouldn't run. Period. If that means fewer tracks & fewer races, then so be it. It's just not right. I love this sport but some of the decisions that are made/allowed are terrible.
L. More than 1 year ago
Well said.
Sirneil Vibes More than 1 year ago
just leave the horses alone with their laxis....they need their meds for health reasons and to perform their best..
Kell More than 1 year ago
train'em on lasix then..but don't race 'em on it,,,,rick just what are your masking with your lasix shots anyway?....horses were far better years ago than today and lasix ain't helping the breed
Gaye Goodwin More than 1 year ago
Then, don;t RUN horses in the sweltering heat and humidity of the Florida summer! There was a day, oh crutch-bound racing industry, when NO ONE used Lasix. And guess what? There were trainers with small stables.
Salvatore Agro More than 1 year ago
And they ran much more frequently than they do now. Fact.
gallopingtom More than 1 year ago
Hey Rick, You clearly have shown your cards. Horseman first, Horse second. The purse structure in NY is so undeserving it is beyond belief! Pay the handicappers by reducing takeout using the bloated purse structure.