04/28/2011 5:44PM

Jockey Club outlines support for banning raceday furosemide

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The Jockey Club on Thursday released a detailed statement by its chief executive, Jim Gagliano, outlining the organization's support for the abolishment of rules that allow horses to be treated on raceday with the diuretic furosemide, known as Salix or Lasix.

The statement by Gagliano contended that raceday administration of the drug, which is used to treat bleeding in the lungs of racehorses, is no longer tolerated by the racing public, and that U.S. policies that have allowed for furosemide use have increasingly isolated the U.S. from the rest of the racing world. The statement was the strongest yet by the Jockey Club to support its recent endorsement of a call to end raceday furosemide use within the next five years.

:: Read the complete statement here

"The Jockey Club stands convinced that the elimination of raceday medication is essential to achieving optimal stewardship of the horse, the sport, the public perception and confidence, and the business of Thoroughbred racing," Gagliano wrote.

The use of furosemide on race days has become a pressing issue in the racing industry in the past month because of a half-dozen endorsements by influential racing organizations, including the Breeders' Cup, the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. The prospect of banning the raceday use of furosemide was first broached in late March by the incoming and outgoing chairmen of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, an umbrella group for U.S. racing commissions.

Those endorsements, however, have been countered by the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which urged caution on the effort several weeks ago. The national horsemen's association, and many trainers, believe that the use of furosemide enables trainers to get more starts out of their horses, and that a ban on the raceday use of the drug would be inhumane for horses who suffer frequently from severe bleeding episodes.

Gagliano's statement said that the Jockey Club agreed with the horsemen's position on several points, including the horsemen's group's contention that furosemide is effective in reducing the incidence and severity of bleeding, citing a scientific study done in South Africa. But Gagliano's statement said that the effectiveness of the diuretic in treating the condition did not outweigh the harm to racing's reputation caused by the widespread use of the drug.

"This study, however, which was designed to evaluate the efficacy of furosemide in preventing [bleeding] in horses, provides little, if any, guidance for setting medication policies regarding the use of furosemide in horse racing," the statement said. "And clearly, it did not consider the fundamental drivers of policy such as the integrity of the sport, the perception and confidence of our customers, and the health of the breed, to name a few."

This summer, both the National horsemen's association and a partnership of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium have said that they plan to devote conferences to the topic of furosemide use. The Jockey Club provides funding to both the NTRA and the medication consortium.

Furosemide has been legal to use on raceday in every major racing jurisdiction since 1995, when New York became the last state to approve its use. The United States is the only major racing jurisdiction where the drug is legal to use on raceday, and its ubiquitous use in the United States has consistently been the source of criticism by regulatory bodies in other countries.