03/30/2012 10:10AM

Jockey Club calls for stronger medication penalties, ban on furosemide

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The Jockey Club on Friday morning released an updated version of rules it is seeking to have adopted by state racing commissions. The changes include stronger penalties for trainers whose horses repeatedly positive for medications violations, the Jockey Club said, and reiterates the Jockey Club’s opposition to the raceday use of furosemide.

The rules say that “horses should be allowed to compete only when free from the influences of medications,” and they call for “stricter regulatory thresholds with increased recommended withdrawal times.” In a change, the rules also say that “contact with a horse within 24 hours of post time shall be subject to surveillance” and that “certain regulations and track ship-in policies may be subject to adjustment.”

The Jockey Club first released a set of proposed rules last August at its Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing as part of its effort to roll back rules that allow for the raceday use of furosemide, a diuretic that is used as an anti-bleeding medication. All North American racing jurisdictions currently allow for the raceday use of furosemide, though the raceday use of the drug is banned in nearly all other foreign racing jurisdictions.

The call to ban the raceday use of furosemide has been aggressively resisted by many horsemen’s groups. The horsemen’s groups contend that the drug is effective in treating a common exercise-induced malady that is suffered by horses worldwide.

Jockey Club officials have said over the past week that the reformed rules have been in development for several months. Last Sunday, a front-page article in the New York Times examining deaths and injuries at U.S. racetracks claimed that a “culture of drugs and lax regulation” in racing was a major contributor to racehorse injuries. The article has led two federal congressmen to resurrect a push for a bill that would subject racing to federal regulation.

The reformed Jockey Club rules do not provide details on how current regulations should be modified so that horses run “only when free from the influences of medication.” Current rules allow horses to run with trace levels of a panoply of drugs that could have been administered several days and even weeks prior to a race. The levels are set at a point in which the medications are not considered to be pharmacologically meaningful, allowing horsemen to treat horses for common ailments or pains that they may suffer while training.

As for modifying ship-in regulations, most tracks require ship-ins to be on the grounds of a racetrack at least six hours prior to post.

The reformed rules also call for the expansion of a racing commission’s regulatory authority to any facility where official workout times are recorded, and the availability of the medical records of horses.