12/10/2003 12:00AM

Parts of model medication document get endorsements


TUCSON, Ariz. -- Regulators and racing officials representing 24 racing jurisdictions in the U.S. largely agreed with the main elements of a model-rules policy developed by leaders of an effort to reform medication rules during a 3 1/2-hour meeting in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, according to participants in the meeting.

"The great news is that the heart and soul of the policy resonated very well with the group," said Lonny Powell, the president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International. Powell and Scott Waterman, the executive director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Task Force on Drug Testing and Medication, said that changes to the document requested by the regulators were limited to "semantics and logistics," but both declined to describe the changes in detail.

The Wednesday meeting came nearly two years to a day since an effort to draft a model-rules document was started, also in Tucson, Ariz., at the University of Arizona's Symposium on Racing. The intent of the effort has been to convince states to adopt regulations that will allow for uniform medication rules in every U.S. racing jurisdiction.

The actual document has not been released, but it was distributed to regulators several months ago in advance of Wednesday's meeting. Waterman acknowledged on Wednesday that the model rules currently call for one raceday medication, the diuretic Lasix, which is used to treat pulmonary hemorrhage in nearly 90 percent of all horses. The document also allows for certain amounts of unidentified drugs to be present in a horse's system on raceday provided the amounts are under a certain threshold level, and also allows for the possibility of additional legal raceday drugs provided scientific evidence backs up the decision.

Waterman said that recommendations from the group will be worked into the document and presented to the board of directors of the Drug-Testing and Medication Consortium, the formal organization that is leading the efforts, by the end of January. Portions of the document that have been completed will then be forwarded to a joint committee of the RCI and the North American Pari-Mutuel Regulators Association to be converted into rules that can be adopted by state racing commissions.

Waterman said that the document identifies 40 to 50 therapeutic medications that could be considered for threshold levels. The only medications that will be allowed to be present, however, are those that are proven scientifically to have a therapeutic use in horses, research that has yet to be completed.

"The idea for us was to prioritize those drugs that need to be put into a public-policy document," Waterman said. "The document does identify specifically those drugs that will be prioritized."

Waterman also stressed that the process to adopt model rules will happen in stages, perhaps over several years, as consortium leaders identify rules that have unanimous support and then forward the completed versions to state racing commissions.

"It's not a light switch," Waterman said. "We can't flip uniformity on and flip it off. It has to happen in stages."